The Lives

Who were the “Objectivists”?

The “Objectivists” were a group of modernist poets writing in English who were gathered and presented by Louis Zukofsky in two “Objectivist” publications: the February 1931 issue of Poetry magazine, and An “Objectivists” Anthology, published the following year in France. Beginning in the mid-1930s, most of the writers identified as “Objectivist” ceased writing poetry or faded into obscurity, until the early 1960s, when several members of the group reemerged as active poets and enjoyed a surge of attention and retroactive identification as “Objectivists.”

Core “Objectivists”

The seven core “Objectivist” writers featured on this website: Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, William Carlos Williams, Carl Rakosi, Basil Bunting and Lorine Niedecker were connected through a shifting web of friendship and joint publication beginning in the mid-1920s and stretching into the early twenty-first century. In addition to their shared publication efforts, the group was also loosely united by shared political and poetic affinities. In contradistinction to Pound, Eliot, and Cummings, three of the most prominent American modernist poets of the era, each of the “Objectivists” was leftist in their politics, with each generally expressing Marxist, socialist, or Progressive sympathies.1Oppen and Rakosi were both, briefly, members of the Communist Party of the United States of America. Each joined while living in New York City in the 1930s, but by the end of the decade, neither was still an active member of the party, though both remained committed to leftist political ideas throughout their lives. Zukofsky did not join the Communist Party, though he appears to have applied for membership in 1925, when his close friend Whittaker Chambers began to ingratiate himself with the party’s New York leadership. Zukofsky was sincere in his Marxist orientation, however, and this orientation remained prominent in his work and private letters through the late 1930s. Not only does Zukofsky’s poetry reflect his close attention to the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, Zukofsky spent several months in 1934 and 1935 preparing A Worker’s Anthology (though never published, many of the poems he gathered for this manuscript made their way into his A Test of Poetry), joined the anti-fascist (and Communist-affiliated) League of American Writers in 1935, and worked briefly that same year as an unpaid poetry editor for the prominent Communist-affiliated literary magazine New Masses. He and Bunting both argued politics with the fascist-sympathizing Pound in their letters throughout the 30s, with Zukofsky taking up more Marxist-Leninist positions and Bunting more anarcho-socialist ones. In a July 1938 letter to Pound, Zukofsky wrote: “Can’t guess what Kulchah is about, but if you want to dedicate yr. book to a communist (me) and a British-conservative-antifascist-imperialist (Basil), I won’t sue you for libel and I suppose you know Basil. So dedicate” (Pound/Zukofsky, 195). Zukofsky’s multi-hybrid classification for Bunting’s politics is a good sign of the difficulty even his closest friends experienced in classifying his political views. Bunting attended a Quaker secondary school and was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the first World War and was, like his father, a dues-paying Fabian Socialist for several years as a young adult. His mature political views, while largely uncategorizable, resemble something of a fusion between socialism and anarchism, though he was perhaps the most suspicious of ideology of the whole group, arguing strenuously for the separation of literature from both political and economic motives and ends. Williams’ politics might be best described as democratic populist, and Niedecker was sympathetic to both the strain of Progressivism led by Wisconsin politician Robert La Follette and Henry Wallace as well as the socialism of William Morris. For more on Niedecker’s politics, see: http://steelwagstaff.info/lorine-niedecker-and-the-99/. Reznikoff’s wife Marie Syrkin, as the daughter of two prominent socialist Zionists and a close friend of Golda Meir’s, was the more overtly political partner in their marriage, but Reznikoff’s writing is profoundly sympathetic to human suffering and what we would today refer to as social justice concerns. Their poetics might be described as sympathetically heterogeneous, with Ezra Pound and the imagist tradition serving as important common touchstones for the group.

Speaking purely in terms of the lives of these “Objectivists,” there are a number of biographical similarities within the group. The geographical center of the group was New York City, with all core members either living in the city or spending significant periods of time there between 1928 and 1935, though all seven were never in the area at the same time.3Apart from a stint at graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin during the 1930-1931 academic year and a trip to visit Pound and other artistic friends in Europe in 1933, Zukofsky spent the entirety of these years in New York City. Reznikoff lived in New York City for his entire life, apart from a year at journalism school in Missouri (the 1910-1911 academic year), a cross-country trip selling hats for his parents’ business and extended stay in Los Angeles from April-June of 1931, and a two year stint working in Hollywood for his friend Al Lewin (from March 1937 through June 1939). The Oppens arrived in New York City in 1928, living briefly in Greenwich Village before taking a room at the Madison Square Hotel (on the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street, near the north east corner of Madison Square Park) for the rest of the winter. They lived briefly with Ted and Kate Hecht on Staten Island in the spring, before renting a small house in New Rochelle harbor, in George’s birth city. They returned to San Francisco at the end of the summer in 1929, and lived a rented house in Belvedere for a year before leaving for France and the end of summer in 1930, around the same time that Zukofsky left New York for Madison. The Oppens arrived in Le Havre, and stayed in France until early in 1933, when they left Paris to return to New York, taking an apartment in Brooklyn Heights near Zukofsky. The Oppens lived in New York from 1933 until the early 1940s, when they moved to Detroit.  Williams and his wife Flossie made their home at 9 Ridge Road in Rutherford, New Jersey, some 25 miles northwest of Manhattan, and Williams made frequent visits to the city. Carl Rakosi lived in New York City on two occasions, from 1924 to 1925, and again from 1935 to 1940. Bunting lived in New York City for the last half of 1930: he and his first wife, Marian Culver, were married on Long Island on July 9, 1930 and lived in Brooklyn Heights through January 1931, when Bunting’s six-month visa expired and the couple returned to Rapallo, Italy. Niedecker came to New York City for the first time in late 1933, and would spend several months in the city, living with Zukofsky, over the next several years. Four of the group were Jewish,2Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, and Rakosi four were the children of American immigrants,4Zukofsky’s parents immigrated from what is now Lithuania, Reznikoff’s parents immigrated from Russia, Rakosi was born in Germany and immigrated from Hungary when he was six years old, and Williams’ parents had immigrated from Puerto Rico, though his father had been born in England. and apart from Zukofsky, none held graduate degrees connected to literature or held university affiliations of any kind until the 1960s, when some members of the group began to be invited to fill artist-in-residence positions at various American universities.5Zukofsky earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia University in June 1924, writing his thesis on the writings of the historian Henry Adams. In February 1946, he began a teaching position as an English instructor at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now operating as the New York University Tandon School of Engineering), where he taught until his retirement in May 1965Reznikoff attended journalism school for a year at the University of Missouri and considered pursuing a Ph.D. in history before enrolling in law school, earning his LLB from New York University in 1915 and being admitted to the bar the following year. Reznikoff took a few postgraduate courses in law, but never earned an advanced degree. Oppen dropped out of Oregon State Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) after he was suspended and Mary was expelled from school for their relationship. Neither George or Mary earned university degrees. Williams attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he befriended classmates Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle [H.D.], graduating in 1906 and filling internships at two New York hospitals and pursuing advanced study in pediatrics in Leipzig, Germany. Rakosi attended the University of Chicago for a year before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1924 and a master’s degree in industrial psychology in 1925. Rakosi attended a wide range of graduate programs in the 1920s and 1930s, briefly enrolling in both the Ph.D. program in English literature and law school at the University of Texas at Austin and medical school at the University of Texas Medical Department in Galveston but leaving each program before earning a degree. After choosing a career as a social worker, Rakosi attended the Graduate School of Social Work at Tulane University in New Orleans and eventually earned his master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. Between 1952 and 1954, he would complete course work in the Social Work Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota, but he never completed the doctorate. Bunting was enrolled at the London School of Economic from October 1919 to April 1923, but was very casual in his studies and left without earning a degree. Niedecker attended Beloit College for two years (from 1922-1924), but family financial pressures forced her to leave without completing her degree. Five of the seven were of the same ‘generation,’ having been born between 1900 and 1908.6The two exceptions were Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey on September 17, 1883, and Reznikoff, born in New York City on August 31, 1894. Of the five born after the turn of the century, Basil Bunting was the eldest7Bunting was born on March 1, 1900 in Scotswood-on-Tyne, a western suburb of Newcastle, England. and George Oppen was the youngest.8Oppen was born on April 24, 1908 in New Rochelle, New York. Less than a year separated Niedecker,9Niedecker was born on May 12, 1903 on Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Rakosi,10Rakosi was born on November 6, 1903 in Berlin, Germany. and Zukofsky,11Zukofsky was born on January 23, 1904 in New York City. who were born within the eight month span from May 1903 and January 1904. Not surprisingly, considering his seniority relative to the rest of the group, Williams was also the first of the “Objectivists” to die, in 1963, just as his fellow “Objectivists” were beginning to resurface on the American literary scene.12William Carlos Williams died March 4, 1963, aged 79; Lorine Niedecker died December 31, 1970, aged 67; Charles Reznikoff died January 22, 1976, aged 81; Louis Zukofsky died May 12, 1978, aged 74; George Oppen died July 7, 1984, aged 76; Basil Bunting died April 17, 1985, aged 85; Carl Rakosi died June 25, 2004, aged 100. For comparison, Ezra Pound was born on October 30, 1885 in Hailey, Idaho and died on November 1, 1972 in Venice, Italy, aged 87. The last surviving “Objectivist” was Rakosi, who published his final volume of poetry in 1999, and continued publishing new work in magazines until shortly before his death on June 25, 2004.

Of the seven writers treated here as core “Objectivists,” all but Lorine Niedecker appeared in both of the foundational “Objectivist” publications. I recognize that my decision to refer to Niedecker as an “Objectivist” poet despite her absence from the early “Objectivist” publishing ventures and group publications could be contested.13Jenny Penberthy and other attentive readers of Niedecker’s poetry have long noted her intellectual and poetic independence, including surrealist tendencies, of which Zukofsky did not approve, in both her earliest and latest poetry. See Penberthy in How2 and both Ruth Jennison and Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ contributions to Radical Vernacular (pp. 131-179). Niedecker became attracted to the group, and to Zukofsky in particular, after reading the February 1931 issue of Poetry in her local library. This encounter prompted Niedecker to write directly to Zukofsky sometime in mid-late 1931, and Niedecker’s first submission to Poetry magazine, dated November 5, 1931, mentions her having been encouraged to do so by Zukofsky.14That letter reads, in full: “Dear Miss Monroe, Mr. Zukofsky encourages me to send some of my poems to you to be considered for “Poetry”. Very truly yours, Lorine Niedecker.” Niedecker to Harriet Monroe in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse Records 1895-1961, Box 18, Folder 2, University of Chicago Special Collections. Niedecker’s first letter to Zukofsky marked the commencement of an intense, lifelong friendship, developed through frequent correspondence for nearly 40 years.15Niedecker and Zukofsky conducted one of the deepest, most fruitful, and longest lasting epistolary friendships among writers of which I know. They destroyed much of their correspondence, but a significant portion of the surviving letters from Niedecker were collected and edited by Jenny Penberthy in Niedecker and the Correspondence with Zukofsky 1931–1970, published in 1993 by Cambridge University Press. Fragments of Zukofsky’s side of the correspondence are held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Late in 1933, Niedecker traveled to New York City for an extended stay with Zukofsky, during which time she met Charles Reznikoff, George and Mary Oppen, and (probably) William Carlos Williams. Later in life, Niedecker met both Carl Rakosi and Basil Bunting, who in particular had been a longtime admirer of her writing. While I would not go so far as Rakosi in describing Niedecker as the “most Objectivist of all of us,”16Quoted in Bird, 71 it is my view that Niedecker, by virtue of both her personal relationships with other members of the group and her poetic sensibilities, warrants inclusion among the core “Objectivists.”

Non-Core “Objectivists”

Robert McAlmon and Kenneth Rexroth were the only other authors to appear in both foundational “Objectivist” publications, and while each participated in abortive publication schemes involving other members of this group,17McAlmon and Williams were joint publishers of Contact, a cheaply-produced little magazine which appeared in four issues between December 1920 and the summer of 1921, when McAlmon left for Paris. In June 1923, Williams published a fifth and final issue of Contact with Monroe Wheeler. The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). After moving to Paris, McAlmon founded the Contact Publishing Company and published important modernist writing under the Contact Editions imprint, including books by his wife Bryher (Annie Ellerman), Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Williams and himself. In 1932, Williams revived Contact, and while McAlmon was listed as an “associate editor” on the masthead and contributed to the magazine, his involvement in the actual editing and publishing of the second run of the magazine was nil. Contact‘s second run lasted for just three issues, all of which were published in 1932 (February, May, and October), and the magazine folded when Williams resigned as an editor and his co-editor Nathanael West left to pursue a screenwriting career in Hollywood. Scans of much of the second run of Contact can be viewed here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run). In the early 30s, Rexroth planned to found a press with his friends Milton Merlin and Joseph Rabinowitch. As they conceived it, the RMR Press (the initial letters of their last names) would publish a series of pamphlets and short books, with a special emphasis on poetry. Zukofsky, Pound, and Williams all wrote to Rexroth in support of the venture, offering selections of their own work for consideration and providing extensive lists of authors they felt might be interested in being included in the series. Zukofsky named Reznikoff, Oppen, Bunting, Rene Taupin, Whittaker Chambers, and Harry Roskolenko; and Pound recommended Rexroth approach Wyndham Lewis, Man Ray, Hilaire Hiler, Robert McAlmon, and Ford Madox Ford. Despite the several recommendations, RMR Press never advanced beyond the planning stage. For more background on RMR, see A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, pp. 65, 75-76. neither referred to themselves as an “Objectivist” after the 1930s and neither is given detailed consideration on this site.

In addition to the writers who appeared in both foundational “Objectivist” publications, there were a number of authors who could be considered as part of the so-called “Objectivist” nexus by virtue of their appearance in one of the two explicitly titled “Objectivist” publications. While I consider these writers non-core or peripheral “Objectivists” for the general purposes of this site, I have provided greater biographical detail for each of them below.

Writers Published in the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry

As a group, the “Objectivists” were simultaneously invented and presented to the poetry-reading public in February 1931, upon the publication of the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry magazine. This issue of the magazine was a special “number” for which the magazine’s regular editor, Harriet Monroe, had given entirely over to Louis Zukofsky at the urging of her old friend and early Poetry contributing editor Ezra Pound. [more on the story here: Pound’s suggestions–Monroe’s conditions–Zukofsky’s awkward acceptance and the frenetic Pound/Zuk correspondence about the issue’s composition and the invention of a “movement”] Zukofsky used the space given to him to set out an “Objectivist” program,18Zukofsky’s “Program: “Objectivists” 1931.” can be read on the website of the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59515 describe the critical principles of ‘sincerity’ and ‘objectification’ in a short essay on the poetry of Charles Reznikoff,19This essay, “Sincerity and Objectification: With Special Reference to the Work of Charles Reznikoff,” can be read on the website of the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59516 and present work by more than twenty contributors.20The full contents of the issue, including a table of contents and full list of contributors, are accessible on the Poetry Foundation’s website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/detail/70538. The next month’s issue included an editorial response from Monroe, entitled “The Arrogance of Youth,”21Monroe’s editorial can be read online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59518 which expressed dismay at Zukofsky’s summary dismissal of nearly all of the poetry published (in Poetry and elsewhere) over the previous few decades and noted the strictness of what she termed his “barbed-wire entanglements,” before ending on a more catholic, conciliatory note, offering a “glad hand to the iconoclasts” and stating that while Poetry “will try, in the future as in the past, to keep its head and its sanity,” she can “at least cheer … Zukofsky and his February friends … on. They may be headed for a short life, but it should certainly be a merry one.”22Poetry (March 1931), 333. In the April issue Monroe included an edited selection of letters from readers along with a reply from Zukofsky.23Monroe concluded the correspondence by printing a postcard from Ezra Pound which claimed that “this is a number I can show to my Friends. If you can do another eleven as lively you will put the mag. on its feet,” followed by her own humorous riposte: “Alas, we fear that would put it on its uppers! [teeth]” (58). The full exchange of correspondence published by Monroe in the April 1931 issue can be found online on the Poetry Foundation’s website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=38&issue=1&page=65.

  1. Carl Rakosi, Four Poems. Core “Objectivist”.
  2. Louis Zukofsky, Seventh movement of “A”. Inventor of the term “Objectivist” and chief instigator of the group.
  3. Howard and Virginia Weeks passport photo, 1922

    Howard and Virginia Weeks passport photo, 1922

    Howard Weeks, “What Furred Creature.” Howard Percy Weeks was born on December 13, 1899 in Rochester, New York to Percy Benson Weeks, a varnish salesman, and F. Estelle “Stella” Bush. Weeks enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1918, where he published regularly in The Michigan Chimes, a student magazine for which he served on the staff as humor writer. Weeks graduated in 1921 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and married Virginia Morrison (daughter of William Morrison and Ella Peppers) in Detroit on September 26, 1922. The couple applied for a passport that same year to take a 3 month honeymoon in Europe, stating their intention to depart from Montreal in late September and travel to England, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Like his older brother Albert, Weeks worked as a journalist. I’ve been unable to uncover much more about his life and career apart from the fact that he died of a streptococcus infection after an extended illness on June 10, 1928, nearly three years before the publication of the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry. [obituary Michigan Free Press] Weeks had been discovered by Ezra Pound, who published his poem “Stunt Piece” in the third issue of The Exile, and thought enough of it to include it in his Profile anthology in 1932, writing “By 1928 Mr Weeks found material for satire in Mr. Eliot’s imitators and detached the externals.”24Profile, 111. In his essay on Small Magazines published in the November 1930 issue of The English Journal, Pound wrote: “I printed very little of Weeks because he seemed to me a man of great promise; one felt that his work was bound to be ever so much better in the course of the next few months. The few months were denied him.”25See: http://library.brown.edu/cds/mjp/pdf/smallmagazines.pdf#page=13 There’s a letter from Pound to Weeks dated July 3, 1928 at Syracuse, perhaps the response to this was how Pound knew he had died in 1928? Zukofsky wrote to Pound on November 6, 1930 with detailed responses to some of Pound’s inquiries about his editing of what would become the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry. Near the end of that letter he tells Pound: “Never saw too much in Weeks either, but very little outside of Xile was printed—Have you any?”26Pound/Zukofsky, 68. Pound presumably sent Zukofsky some of Weeks’ work, including “Furred Creature,” which Zukofsky included in Poetry. There is no evidence that Pound, Zukofsky, or anyone else in the “Objectivist” circle ever met Weeks in person, and only Pound appears to have corresponded with him before his death in 1928.

  4. Robert McAlmon, “Fortuno Carraccioli.” McAlmon was born in Clifton, Kansas in 1895, the youngest of ten children in a family headed by an itinerant Presbyterian minister. He spent much of his childhood in Madison, South Dakota, and describes his childhood, including a close friendship with Gore Vidal’s father Eugene, in his 1924 memoir Village: As It Happened Through a Fifteen Year Period. McAlmon attended the University of Minnesota for one semester before joining the Army Air Corps near the end of World War I. Following the war’s end, he moved to Los Angeles and enrolled as a student at the University of Southern California, but left school before completing his degree to move to New York. In 1920, shortly after arriving in New York City, McAlmon met William Carlos Williams at a party hosted by the avant-garde poet Lola Ridge. McAlmon and Williams quickly struck up a friendship and soon after became joint publishers of Contact, a cheaply-produced little magazine. McAlmon and Williams published four issues of Contact between December 1920 and the summer of 1921.27In June 1923, Williams published a fifth and final issue of Contact with Monroe Wheeler. The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run). In February 1921, McAlmon entered into marriage of convenience with Bryher (Annie Winifred Glover), the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Following their marriage, McAlmon and Bryher moved to London (which McAlmon hated) and then to Paris, where McAlmon used his father-in-law’s wealth to found the Contact Publishing Company and publish important modernist writing under the Contact Editions imprint, including books by his wife Bryher (Annie Ellerman), Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Williams and himself.28For a good description of Bryher/Ellerman’s and McAlmon’s relationship, see Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900-1940, especially pp. 357-362. McAlmon and Bryher divorced in 1927 and Contact Editions ceased publication in 1929. McAlmon moved between Europe and the United States for much of the 1930s (he lived in Albuquerque in the early 1930s), before returning to the United States for good in 1940, settling first in El Paso, Texas. He died in Palm Springs, California on February 2, 1956. [Summary of publications and more detail still needed.]
  5. Joyce Hopkins, listed as the author of the one-line poem “University: Old-Time,” was a fictional pseudonym invented by Zukofsky, probably intended as a literary in-joke combining the names of James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Zukofsky fashioned the poem itself from a line in a letter describing the efforts of his friend Irving Kaplan’s wife Dorothy to help elderly citizens in Napa, California apply for state pensions.29Zukofsky offers a gloss on the poem in a December 14, 1931 letter to Ezra Pound: “Jerce ‘opkins, again? That’s funny!! Napa—a kind of weed growing in Napa, Calif. I don’t know why Persephone’s husband, romanized, shdn’t be on the west coast now. I don’t know that Napa has a university, but it might as well have. The literal meaning of this famous epigram was the bare statement in a letter of Roger Kaigh [a pseudonym for Kaplan] to Mr. L.Z—D. (Dorothy his spouse, who was dispensing pensions to old folk) is in Napa trailing the sterilized. I added the title & lower-cased napa—which word you can find in Webster’s international. I looked it up after I myself <had> begun to doubt the meaning of the poem. The allegorical meaning is that L.Z. in Wisconsin was Pluto in hell following a lot of emasculated peripatetics (tho’ it is even doubtful these walked or were ever unemasculated). The anagogical meaning is that even evil (Dis) implies redemption” (Pound/Zukofsky, 120-121). Irving Kaplan was born in Dziatlava, Poland on September 23, 1900, and emigrated to New York City with his parents while a young child. He became a U.S. citizen when his father Morris Kaplan was naturalized in 1910 or 1911, and attended public schools in New York City before enrolling at the City College of New York for a year. After a year at City College, Kaplan transferred to Columbia university, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1923 and befriended Zukofsky, Whittaker Chambers, Meyer Schapiro, and other classmates. Kaplan is probably the same person referred to in several of Zukofsky’s letters at Roger Kaigh and at several points in early movements of “A” as Kay. Kaplan did some graduate work at Columbia and attended Fordham Law School in 1928 and 1929, but left without completing a law degree. On September 6, 1928, Kaplan married Dorothy Herbst in Manhattan, and the 1930 Census records the Kaplans as living at 221 Linden Boulevard, near Prospect Park in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, and listed Kaplan as being an accountant. The Kaplans moved to Berkeley, California late in 1929, where Dorothy enrolled in graduate school at the University of California and Kaplan worked for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Zukofsky visited the Kaplans in Berkeley during the summer of 1930, living in their attic and writing large portions of “A”. In the Spring of 1932, Zukofsky and Jerry Reisman traveled to Berkeley to visit the Kaplans again, and Reisman remembered Kaplan as a frequent visitor to Zukofsky’s apartment in New York City in the early-mid 1930s.30For more on Roger Kaigh/Irving Kaplan, see Andrew Crozier’s “Paper Bunting” in Sagetrieb 14:3 (Winter 1995), 45-75. While in Berkeley, Kaplan worked as an economist for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and upon moving to Washington D.C. in the July 1935, worked as a statistician and administrator for a number of federal government agencies, including the Works Progress Administration, the Federal Works Administration and the Office of Production Management (also known as the War Production Board). From late 1935 until the summer of 1938, he worked in Philadelphia as the Associate Director of the National Research Project on Reemployment Opportunities and Recent Changes in Industrial Techniques of the Works Progress Administration, under the direction of Harold Weintraub. In 1937, as Whittaker Chambers was beginning to plan his defection from the Soviet underground, Kaplan helped Chambers find a job with the WPA.31Chambers testified before HUAC in 1948 that while beginning to look for government work, he had been referred to Kaplan, his old college friend, and spent an evening with him in Philadelphia, and that within a matter of days Kaplan had arranged a position for Chambers with the federal government. Chambers began work as a “Report Editor” on the National Research Project in October 1937 and was furloughed in February 1938, following which time he found literary translation work through his old college friend Meyer Schapiro. In 1938, Kaplan left the WPA and returned to Washington D.C. to take a job in the Justice Department working for the Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold in connection with the the Temporary National Economic Committee. In February 1940, Kaplan took a position as an economist with the Federal Works Administration, and remained there until 1942, when he transferred to the Office of Production Management.32The 1940 census lists the Kaplans as living at 5315 Edmunds Place in Washington, D.C. and records Kaplan as making $5400 a year as an economist for the Federal Works Administration. From July through December 1945, Kaplan traveled to Germany to work for the finance department of the United States military government in Germany, where we worked as an economic advisor Kaplan took a position under David Weintraub as an economic officer for the United Nations from 1948 until 1952, when he was screened out of government employment and fired from his position at the United Nations after facing accusations of spying and secret Communist activity levelled against him by Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers.33Bentley accused him of being a member of the Silvermaster spy group and paying dues to the Perlo group. More context for Bentley’s accusations can be found in “The Shameful Years,” a HUAC report issued in December 1951. Kaplan’s testimony before HUAC in 1952 can be read here. It concludes with Congressman Donald Jackson, who had been appointed to the committee in 1950 following Richard Nixon’s election to the U.S. Senate, stating that he was “personally convinced that [Kaplan] was a Communist and that he undoubtedly is a Communist today.” In May 1964, Kaplan wrote a letter to President Johnson objecting to to U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and forwarded it to Senator Wayne Morse, praising Morse for his “valiant work on the issue involved … pressing our Government toward a policy of peace and reason.”34This letter which was among a number of letters opposed to U.S. involvement in South Vietnam which Morse submitted to the Congressional Record in 1964 and can be read in full at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CRECB-1964-pt9/pdf/GPO-CRECB-1964-pt9-10.pdf#page=40.
  6. Charles Reznikoff, “A Group of Verse.” Core “Objectivist”.
  7. Norman Macleod, “Song for the Turquoise People.” Norman Wicklund Macleod was born in Salem, Oregon in 1906. While an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico in Alburquerque in the late 1920s, Macleod founded a series of little magazines, including Jackass (1928), Palo Verde (1928-1929), The Morada (1929-1930), and Front (1930-1931), the latter two of which featured work by Ezra Pound and several other “Objectivists.” Front ceased publication after its fourth issue, when Macleod moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school the University of Southern California from 1931-1932. Before finishing his degree, Macleod left for New York City, where he worked as a reader and circulation assistant for the publisher Harper & Brothers from 1932-1934. During his time in New York, Macleod befriended William Carlos Williams and even received Williams’ approval to take over editing the second run of Contact following Williams’ resignation in 1933, but the magazine folded before publishing any further issues.35See The Correspondence of WIlliams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 146. Macleod and Williams remained friends for several years, with Williams including a “Poem for Norman Macleod” in his 1935 collection An Early Martyr and Other Poems.36The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1, 401. In 1934, Macleod briefly left New York to attend the University of Oklahoma, but was back in New York City by 1935, when he married Vivienne Koch, who would later become a literary scholar, writing an early critical study of WIlliams Carlos Williams. With Koch’s encouragement, Macleod made a final attempt at graduate school, this time earning a master’s degree in English from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1936. In 1939, Macleod helped William Kolodney found the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association (now called the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y), where he worked until 1942. In March of that year, Macleod appeared with Zukofsky and two other poets on a panel about democracy and the poet’s responsibility during wartime at the Poetry Center,37According to Barry Ahearn, Macleod and Zukofsky were joined by Robert Goffin and Sheamus O’Sheal in addressing the questions “What has American poetry contributed to the democratic tradition? What is the American poet’s responsibility in the present war?” (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 300-301). and later that year Macleod left the Poetry Center to take a teaching job at the University of Maryland (where he edited the Maryland Quarterly from 1942-1944). In 1944, Macleod returned to New York, taking a teaching position at Briarcliff College (where he edited the Briarcliff Quarterly from 1944-1947). In October 1946, Macleod published a special William Carlos Williams issue of Briarcliff Quarterly and included Williams’s “Choral: The Pink Church,” a poem which had been set to music by Celia Zukofsky. In 1946, Macleod and Koch divorced, and shortly thereafter Macleod left New York City again, embarking on a varied and peripatetic teaching career, holding positions over the next two decades at Lehigh University, Savannah State College (now Savannah State University), San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University), and the University of Baghdad. In 1967, Macleod accepted a position at Pembroke State University (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke), where he founded Pembroke magazine in 1969, and later directed the university’s Creative Writing program. He received the Horace Gregory Award (a national award created in 1969 to honor emeritus faculty members for their social contributions to arts, letters and research) for his work as a poet, an editor, and a teacher in 1973, and retired from both teaching and editing Pembroke in 1979, six years before his death in Greenville, North Carolina on June 5, 1985. Macleod published several collections of poetry, including Horizons of Death (1934), Thanksgiving Before November (1936), We Thank You All the Time (1941), A Man in Midpassage (1947), Pure as Nowhere (1962), Selected Poems (1975), and The Distance: New and Selected Poems, 1928–1977 (1977). Macleod’s published prose works include two novels: You Get What You Ask For (1939) and The Bitter Roots (1941), and the autobiography I Never Lost Anything in Istanbul (1978). Macleod’s papers are now held by Yale University, the University of Delaware, and the University of New Mexico.38Yale has letters from Williams and Zukofsky, plus letters from Marty Rosenblum and Tom Sharp.
  8. Kenneth Rexroth, “Last Page of a Manuscript.” Rexroth was born in South Bend, Indiana on December 22, 1905, and recounts many of his early life experiences in great detail in his raucous 1966 memoir An Autobiographical Novel. In 1929, Rexroth published his first poems in Charles Henri Ford’s little magazine Blues, where he appeared alongside Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky, as well as fellow “Objectivists” Carl Rakosi, Norman Macleod, Harry Roskolenko, and Richard Johns. His first wife Andrée Dutcher, a talented artist, even designed the cover of Blues 7, published in Fall 1929. In November 1930, Zukofsky wrote to Rexroth (who was then living in San Francisco) to solicit work for the upcoming issue of Poetry he was editing, explaining that he had read his poetry in Blues. Rexroth replied at length, and Zukofsky included work by Rexroth in both the “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry and in An ‘Objectivists’ Anthology, where to the bafflement of Rakosi and others in the group he was given nearly 40 pages! Though Zukofsky and Rexroth corresponded at some length, he and Zukofsky did not meet in person until the summer of 1957, when Zukofsky spent a summer teaching in San Francisco.39For those interested to better understand the nature of Rexroth and Zukofsky’s relationship, significant portions of their correspondence have been published. Mark Scroggins presents two long letters from Rexroth to Zukofsky in the early 1930s detailing his philosophical and poetic stances and his disagreements with Zukofsky’s positions in a special Rexroth centenary issue of the Chicago Review in 2006: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25742335, and several long letters from Zukofsky to Rexroth can be found in the edition of Zukofsky’s selected letters edited by Barry Ahearn and published on Z-Site: http://www.z-site.net/selected-letters-of-louis-zukofsky/ (see pp. 46-62; 64-72; 138-144; 186-200).
    While Rexroth praised Zukofsky in 1957 as “one of the most important poets of my generation” in his review of Zukofsky’s book Some Time, his relationships with other “Objectivists” were never good. At Zukofsky’s urging, Rexroth and his then wife Andrée met George and Mary Oppen in San Francisco shortly before they left for France in 1930, but the couples did not get along well and their contact was limited to a few social engagements.40In Meaning a Life, Mary Oppen wrote: “As our year in Belvedere drew to a close and we were preparing to take ship for France, Kenneth Rexroth paid us visit. He had recently come from Chicago, and he probably looked us up because he was in correspondence with Louis; it was but a brief encounter” (106). Rexroth and Rakosi had a similarly superficial acquaintance in later years.41For a good account of Rexroth’s association with Zukofsky, Oppen, and Rakosi in the 1930s, see A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 70-76. For his part, Williams was impressed with Rexroth’s 1944 book The Phoenix and the Tortoise, but did not like his earlier “Objectivist”-period writing.42After reading Rexroth’s The Phoenix and the Tortoise, Williams would write to James Laughlin in November 1944: “Rexroth (King Red) has finally emerged into something very firm and perceptive—hard to say how good he is now (and how bad I found him formerly) It takes everything a man has to be a good artist and then he only succeeds by luck sometimes. … [T]here is—as there must be—a genius of the Amerian language. I mean not a human genius but an abstract of the language we speak which must be realized by everyone before we can have a literature. … Rexroth is a step in the right direction, not fully as yet realized, he is too bitter, not exalted enough by discoveries of method as the artist must be, the line, the turn of phrase etc etc … But he is good” (Williams / Laughlin, 104). As interest in the “Objectivists” began to grow in the 1960s, Rexroth contributed to a number of false rumors about his former acquaintances, telling several people that Rakosi had been a secret Stalinist agent and privately accusing George Oppen of having being a hit man for the Communist Party, neither of which was even remotely true. While he deigned to describe Oppen as “a remarkable poet” in one interview, he also seems to have pursued an affair with George’s wealthy and well-connected sister June Oppen Degnan.43See A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 138-141, 389, 408. His relationship with the core “Objectivists” was peripheral at best, and was accomplished primarily through Zukofsky, and he would later claim: “Almost all of the people that Zukofsky picked as Objectivists, didn’t agree with him, didn’t write like him or like one another, and didn’t want to be called Objectivists”44American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, 111. However sincere this criticism may have been, it didn’t stop Rexroth from insisting on his own centrality at the 1973 National Poetry Conference dedicated to the “Objectivists” in Allendale, Michigan. According to his biographer Linda Hamalian: “Suffering from a bad back and in a vile mood, Rexroth had shown up a day late. He stormed into the conference dining room and cried, “They can’t do this to me.” Without saying hello, he walked to by the table where Mary and George Oppen, Robert Duncan, Leah and Carl Rakosi were sitting. He was irritated that he had been given a bunk in student quarters, like everyone else.”45A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 389. Despite his peripherality to the “Objectivists,” Rexroth was undeniably a central figure in the San Francisco Renaissance and conducted a long and eventful career as a poet and translator on the West Coast before his death in Montecito, California on June 6, 1982. Linda Hamalian published her biography A Life of Kenneth Rexroth in 1991, and Copper Canyon Press published The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, in 2002. Rexroth was a prolific author of both poetry and prose, and several of his books remain in print, including a number of translations and edited collections. The Bureau of Public Secrets (operated by Ken Knabb) maintains a useful guide to many of Rexroth’s published writings, though the site is not easy on the eyes. Rexroth’s papers are held by USC and UCLA
  9. S. Theodore Hecht, “Table for Christmas.” Samuel Theodore [Ted] Hecht was born July 11, 1895 in Austria, and emigrated to the United States as a young child. Hecht attended Columbia University, where he served on the editorial board of the student literary magazine The Morningside with Zukofsky and Whittaker Chambers, and became a close lifelong friend of Zukofsky’s. After graduation, he married Katherine [Kate] (born in 1897 or 1898) and worked as a high school English teacher in the New York City area. Zukofsky refers to Hecht in a letter to Ezra Pound dated August 12, 1928: “As I have already intimated Bill [William Carlos Williams] thinks he wants a group, but probably doesn’t. I myself think more than five “real lives” would be too much. At least, for me, one is enough. I’d like Cummings—so would Bill (he had him out once). Both shy, they wd. take long to thaw. Marianne [Moore], yes, but would she? I’ll ask Bill. Add myself—and you have four—three arrived, and one to keep in touch with the younger generation, I mean, such people as I know—Whittaker Chambers, T.S. Hecht, Henry Zolinsky (whose stuff you recently rejected), John Gassner and maybe one or two others.”46Pound/Zukofsky, 16. The Hechts had two sons, Joseph (born June 27, 1926, died of scarlet fever in a US Naval Hospital on May 4, 1945) and Jaime (born April 23, 1929, died April 19, 2006). In Meaning a Life, Mary Oppen recalls being introduced to the Hechts by Zukofsky shortly before Jaime’s birth and being subsequently invited to live with them and care for Joseph while the parents would be at the hospital for the birth: “We went once with Louis to visit his friends Kate and Ted and their two-year-old-son Joe, who played Bach for himself on a little wind-up phonograph. Kate, a heavy matriarchal woman, was huge with her second child, soon to be born [Jamie was born on April 23, 1929]; Ted was teaching in a Staten Island high school, and they were living in a non-Jewish neighborhood near Ted’s school … Kate and Ted clung to Louis, who was precursor for them in areas where they still felt strange and isolated. George and I may have been their first experience of a couple with no experience of the ghetto. Kate behaved as though she was jealous of Louis’ friendship with us; she was afraid, perhaps, that she would be abandoned by Louis, who indeed found them to be a heavy responsibility … Next day Kate phone me and said, “Mary, would you and George consider moving in with us, and would you take care of Joey when I go to the hospital?” … George would have to commute to work, but I was tired of city streets, and it was nearly spring. We decided to say yes, so I called Kate and told her, “We’ll move in; we’ll share expenses until you have the baby.” The baby was delayed, and we were well acquainted but still strange to each other by the time Kate went to the hospital. … Kate came home after ten days in the hospital, and the next day we left.”47Meaning a Life, 91-92. Zukofsky also introduced the Hechts to Williams, and Bill and Flossie became friends with Kate and Ted, a friendship strengthened when the Hechts moved to a home on 52 Wheaton Place in Rutherford, around half a mile from the Williams’ family home at 9 Ridge Road. In addition to his poem in Poetry, Hecht also published short stories in Richard Johns’ magazine Pagany.48His story “Mamie’s Papa” appeared in the Summer 1930 issue. Two other stories, “Henry Convalescing” and “Winter Stories” were announced for future publication in Pagany in 1932 and 1933, though neither ever appeared in the magazine. The manuscript for “Henry Convalescing” is held among the Pagany papers at the University of Delaware. Williams and Zukofsky’s letters contain several references to their ongoing mutual friendship with the Hechts, the last of which is dated 1955. Ted Hecht died in April 1972.
  10. George Oppen, “1930’s.” Core “Objectivist”.
  11. Harry Roskolenkier, “Supper in an Alms-House.” Harry Roskolenko was born in New York City in 1907, the thirteenth of fourteen children born to Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. Largely self-educated, Roskolenko was a factory worker at age nine and ran away from home at age fourteen, traveling a great deal with the merchant marine from 1920 through 1927. Roskolenko published three well-regarded autobiographical works in which his childhood on the Lower East Side feature prominently: When Last I Was on Cherry Street (1965), The Terrorized (1967), and The Time That Was Then (1971). He and Zukofsky were both Marxists with similar family backgrounds, and Zukofsky had seen Roskolenko’s work in Blues and the New Masses. In a December 12, 1930 letter to Ezra Pound, Zukofsky wrote: “Anyway, I’ll have to launch the issue with what I’ve got. Mike [Gold, editor of the New Masses] shd. be pleased with my redempted of Comrade Roskolenkier—& you sld. see what I had to do to wade thru the stuff & then come out after putting it together (???) with—dignity. I mean certain lines in one poem naturally belong in another—signed L.Z.—But what will happen if I stop running my correspondence courses? If I redeem another “poet” after Sat. Nov. 13, I’ll shoot myself.”49Pound/Zukofsky, 82. Roskolenko also published poems in both the Spring and Summer 1932 issues of Pagany, where his contributor note read: “Harry Roskolenkier is twenty-four years of age; has been a sailor and an oiler on drawbridges. His work has appeared in Blues, The LeftPoetryNativityRevolutionary Anthology of 1931, etc.”50Pagany 3:2 (Spring 1932), 152. In 1938, Roskolenko published his first collection of poetry, Sequence of Violence, of which William Carlos Williams wrote a brief, damning, though never-published review.51Williams’ review is included in Something to Say: William Carlos Williams on Younger Poets, 101-102. The final paragraph reads: “I can see what Roskolenko is at. I don’t think he has succeeded. Yet, in spite of all that, that the book will never be read, that it doesn’t get anywhere, that there isn’t a well-made poem in it, that his words are as flat, often as the debacle he holds up to our disdain—the book is so bad, that by its very depravity it is impressive. It is senseless.” In 1941, Roskolenko published a second collection of poems, I Went Into the Country, with the James A. Decker Press in Prairie City, Illinois.52Decker also published Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Niedecker’s first books in the 1940s. Roskolenko joined the US Army in 1942, and was posted to the South Pacific during the second World War. He visited Australia frequently during the 1940s, where he published two volumes of his own poetry, A Second Summary (1944), and Notes from a Journey (1947), illustrated by Sidney Nolan. He also edited, with Elizabeth Lambert, a special Australian issue of the poetry quarterly Voices (Summer 1944). While in Australia, he also became close with several members of the Angry Penguins movement, and upon his return to the United States after the war, he wrote a “Letter from America” feature and acquired contributions from American writers (including Kenneth Rexroth) for the Angry Penguins magazine. Roskolenko married Diana Chang in 1948; the couple had one child before divorcing in 1955. In 1950, Roskolenko published Paris Poems, a limited edition chapbook with lithographs by the Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-ki. In the post-war years, Roskolenko made his living almost entirely from his writing, travelling widely and publishing erotica and other hack work under an wide array of pseudonyms, as well as contributing frequently under his own name to well-known intellectual magazines, including the New York Times Book Review, New Republic and Partisan Review. In 1952, he published Baedeker of a Bachelor: The Exotic Adventures and Bizarre Adventures of a Carefree Man; 1958, he published Poet on a Scooter, an account of his traveling the world, largely aboard a Vespa scooter; and in 1962, he published White Man, Go!, an account of his travels across the African continent. In 1968, he published a novel, Lan-Lan, about a mixed-race love affair set in Cambodia. In 1969 he visited Australia again and in 1970 published a slim collection of poetry in Melbourne, American Civilization, complete with illustrations by the well-known Australian artists Jack Olsen, Clifton Pugh, and Albert Tucker. Roskolenko died in New York City on July 17, 1980. His papers are held at Syracuse University, Yale’s Beinecke Library, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas.53For more on Roskolenko, see Sanford Sternlicht’s The Tenement Saga: The Lower East Side and Early Jewish American Writers (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), pp. 150-154.
  12. Whittaker Chambers, “October 21st, 1926.” Jay Vivian “Whittaker” Chambers was born on April 1, 1901 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Jay Chambers, a graphic artist for the New York World, and Laha Whittaker, a former provincial actress and waitress. His parents moved to Brooklyn shortly after his birth, eventually settling in Lynbrook, on Long Island, New York, where Chambers and his younger brother Richard (Ricky) spent largely unhappy childhoods. In July 1919, a few months after his eighteenth birthday, Chambers defied his mother’s wishes that he enroll in a prestigious university and left home with Anthony Muller, a friend who had been stationed abroad during the recently concluded First World War. Muller and Chambers had loosely discussed travelling to Mexico, and spent a few months doing manual labor in Washington and looking unsuccessfully for work in New Orleans. After depleting his savings, Chambers wired home for money and returned to the family home in November 1919, at which time his father got him a job in the mailroom at the advertising agency where he worked as an art director. In 1920, the younger Chambers decided to enroll at college, spending a few miserable days at Williams College in Massachusetts (his mother’s choice) before transferring to Columbia University. In college, he reinvented himself as Whittaker Chambers, adopting his mother’s maiden name in place of the undesirably effete Vivian. Though he himself was then a Bible-reading Hoover-supporting Christian, many of Chambers’ closest friends at Colombia were Jewish (unsurprising, as Jews in those years comprised some 20% of the total student population. At NYU, the number was closer to 50%, and at City College, around 80%). Chambers’ classmates and friends at Columbia included Mortimer Adler, Jacques Barzun, Clifton Fadiman, John Gassner, Irving Kaplan, Meyer Schapiro, Lionel Trilling, and Louis Zukofsky. The instructor of Chambers’ freshman composition course was Mark Van Doren, who praised and encouraged Chambers’ literary efforts and was a major influence on Chambers’ burgeoning desire to become a poet. In his first years at school, Chambers joined the staff of Varsity, an undergraduate magazine, and published a loosely autobiographical short story “The Damn Fool” in the March 1922 issue of The Morningside, the recently revived student literary magazine. At the end of his sophomore year, Chambers was elected The Morningside‘s editor-in-chief for the following year, and he oversaw the publication of the highly controversial “profanist” issue of The Morningside, published in October 1922. The issue included a four page play “A Play for Puppets” by “John Kelly” (an invented name Chambers used to conceal his identity) which featured lewd banter, a reluctantly resurrected Jesus, and was dedicated to the “Antichrist.” The backlash against the story and the “Profanist” issue was instant and severe, with the student committee on publications demanding Chambers’ immediate resignation and threatening to suspend the magazine were it again to publish any content similar to “A Play for Puppets.” Chambers resigned his position, withdrew from courses, and left the university in January 1923. He spent the next several months drifting between his family home in Lynbrook and his friendships with other college-age writers in the city, before embarking on a three month trip to Europe with his friends Meyer Schapiro and Henry Zolinsky in June 1923. Upon his return to New York, Chambers found a job working evenings in the newspaper room at the New York Public Library and rented an apartment with Henry Bang, a fellow Colombia dropout near City College in uptown Manhattan. In the summer of 1924, their apartment caught fire and Chambers and Bang moved to a tent pitched on Long Island’s Atlantic Beach, where they were frequently joined by college friends, including Louis Zukofsky and Henry Zolinsky.54Chambers describes the joys of the summer in his short play “On the Beach,” published as “Julian Fichtner” in January 1926 in the CCNY student magazine Lavender. Zukofsky also refers to experiences from this summer in his poetry. In 1924, encouraged by the married woman he was having an affair with, Chambers applied for readmission at Columbia, enrolling in classes in the Fall term. His younger brother Ricky graduated from high school in 1924 and enrolled at the same time at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Chambers’ didn’t last long in his second stint at Columbia, dropping out a second time at the end of the year. He had also grown increasingly attracted to Leninism, and joined the Workers Party of America (a legal front for the Communist Party) in New York City in February 1925 under the mentorship of Sam Krieger, a longtime radical. Ricky dropped out of Colgate around the same time, returning home and descending into an alcohol-fueled depression. In the summer of 1925, Chambers left his library job to hitchhike around the American West for a month, joining the IWW while in Seattle and writing poetry, and he made a similar trip in the summer of 1926, this time traveling by automobile with the younger brother of his former roommate Henry Bang.55Chambers’ old mentor Mark Van Doren, published two of Chambers’ poems from this time in The Nation, where he was the literary editor. Chamber’s poem “Quag-Hole” appeared in December 1925, and his “Lothrop, Montana” was published in June 1926. In the evening of September 8, 1926, a few weeks before his twenty-third birthday, Ricky committed suicide by gas in his apartment, leaving behind a young wife. The poem of Chambers’ included by Zukofsky in the “Objectivist” issue of Poetry is an elegy for Ricky, who was also memorialized in two important early Zukofsky poems: “A”-3 and “Poem Beginning ‘The’.” In April 1927, dozens of books illicitly removed from the NYPL and Columbia University library were discovered in Chambers’ work locker and home apartment and he was fired from his job at the NYPL and barred permanently from enrollment at Colombia. According to Chambers’ biographer, Zukofsky found him a job working at his brother Morris’ bookshop in 1927, though he and Zukofsky appear to have been “indifferent, sometimes negligent booksellers.”56Tanenhaus, 56. [more on Communist period?] Chambers married fellow Communist Esther Shemitz on April 15, 1931; the couple had a daughter, Ellen, on October 17, 1933, and a son, John, on August 18, 1936. While Chambers had some literary accomplishments during his Communist-affiliated years in the late 1920s and early 1930s, working as an editor at the Daily Worker and New Masses magazine, he became much better known for political reasons. In 1932, Chambers became a Soviet agent, resigning from his position at New Masses, and becoming a member of a Communist cell led by Harold Peters and Josef Peters. He rose quickly through the ranks and ran a ring of Soviet spies in Washington D.C. for several years before defecting in 1938. He joined TIME magazine in 1938, and was a senior editor there for several years, rising to national prominence in the late 1940s for his testimony before HUAC and as a government witness in the Alger Hiss perjury trial. He is best known today for his public role as an anti-communist, and for his two memoirs: Witness, published to great acclaim by Random House in 1952 and Cold Friday, published posthumously in 1964. Chambers, who had long suffered from angina, died of a heart attack on July 9, 1961. His life is discussed at greater length in Allen Weinstein’s Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (published in 1978, revised edition in 1997, third edition in 2013), and Sam Tanenhaus’ very well-researched biography, published in 1998. For more on Soviet espionage in this period, see Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev’s The Haunted Wood: Soviety Espionage in America–the Stalin Era.
  13. Henry Zolinsky, “Horatio.” Henry Zolinsky was born on August 19, 1903 in Manhattan, to Edward Nathan Zolinsky, a Jewish immigrant from Germany, and Rosie Geisch. In the early 1920s, Zolinsky was a student at CCNY, where he edited the student literary magazine, Lavender and became close friends with Zukofsky, then a student at Columbia. Prior to appearing in the “Objectivists” issue, Zolinsky had been published previously in Poetry on two other occasions: he published two short poems in the December 1921 issue of Poetry and two sonnets (under the name Henry Saul) in the December 1923 issue. The contributor note for his first appearance in Poetry read “Mr. Henry Saul Zolinsky, who, although only seventeen, has already been newsboy, bell-boy, office-boy, electrician, shoe-salesman and ad-solicitor; and who hopes to become a student again some day and finish his interrupted course at college.”57See https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=19&issue=3&page=59. In 1923, Zolinsky traveled to Europe with Meyer Schapiro (another mutual friend of Zukofsky’s) and Whittaker Chambers. Zolinsky married Mary Elizabeth Nolan on April 13, 1929 and the couple had a daughter, Nancy, later that year. In October 1929, Zolinsky was arrested, along with Samuel Roth and Julius Moss, after Roth’s Golden Hind Press offices were raided by John Saxton Sumner, who headed the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, a state censorship body charged with investigating and recommending obscenity cases to federal and state prosecutors. The 1930 census records the Zolinsky family as living with Whittaker Chambers in the Chambers’ family home in Lynbrook, during which time Chambers’ biographer suggests Zolinsky was searching for work as a French teacher. According to the 1940 census, Zolinsky was working as a public school teacher and living at 20 Monroe Street in New York City. In 1941, the Zolinksy’s changed their name to Zolan, and Zolan taught English and sponsored a high school chess club during the 1950s at what was then Seward Park High School on 350 Grand Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. Mary died in September 1979 and Henry died on May 2, 2001 in Laguna Hills, California. Henry and Mary are now buried in Bennett Valley Cemetery in Santa Rosa, California.
  14. Basil Bunting, “The Word.” Core “Objectivist”.
  15. Jesse Loewenthal, “Match.” Loewenthal was born in the Bronx, New York in 1902 to Louis Loewenthal and Fanny Haas, Jewish immigrant parents from Berlin and Vienna. Loewenthal earned a degree in English from City College of New York and was linguistically gifted: capable of speaking German, Yiddish, Spanish, French, Italian, and some Arabic, he was also trained in the classics and could read both Latin and Ancient Greek. He and Zukofsky probably met in the late 1920s at Stuyvesant High School, New York City’s preeminent public high school, where Loewenthal taught English and Zukofsky was an occasional substitute instructor. In 1937, while traveling to Cuba for health reasons, Loewenthal met the Cuban artist Carmen Herrera via a letter of introduction from Herrera’s step-brother Addison, the head of NBC radio’s Latin American department in New York City. Loewenthal and Herrera carried on a two-year distance courtship, though Loewenthal returned to Cuba in the summers and over the holidays whenever he was able. The couple married on July 10, 1939 at Herrera’s family home in Havana.58Herrera’s father, Antonio Herrera y Neito was the founder and executive editor of El Mundo, Cuba’s first post-independence newspaper, and her mother, Carmela Nieto de Herrera was an author and philanthropist who had been married to the American banker John Steward Durland before marrying Carmen’s father in 1913. Her father, who had been an officer in the Cuban army during their war for independence from Spain, died in 1917, just after Carmen, the youngest of seven children, turned two years old. Following their marriage, Loewenthal and Herrera honeymooned in Mexico, spending time in Mexico City, Acapulco, and Monterrey, before returning to New York City, where they lived in an a series of apartments near Union Square Park in Manhattan. Over the next decade, Loewenthal teaches at Stuyvesant and Herrera develops her technique as an abstract painter, occasionally traveling to Cuba for family and art reasons. While in New York, the couple enjoyed a rich social life which included Louis and Celia Zukofsky, Loewenthal’s college friend and painter Barnett Newman and his wife Annalee Greenhouse, the dancer and jazz critic Roger Pryor Dodge and his wife Ann, and the Colombian artist Rafael Umaña and his wife, the dancer Helen McGehee. Between 1948 and 1954, Loewenthal took an extended sabbatical from his position at Stuyvesant to move to Paris, where Herrera’s brother John was the Consul General for Cuba. For most of their time in France, the couple lived in an apartment on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse, on the Left Bank of Paris and spent large portions of their summers in the artist’s commune in Alba-la-Romaine promoted by the painter André Lhote in 1948 in the newspaper Combat. While living in Paris, Herrera exhibited her paintings on a number of occasions at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the couple befriended several members of the Parisian art and literary scene, including the playwright Jean Genet. In 1954, the couple returned to New York City, where Jesse resumed teaching English at Stuyvesant. In 1960, following Castro’s revolution in Cuba, Herrera ceases receiving rent payments on property in Cuba inherited from her mother, and Herrera imports and sells many of the family’s remaining belongings. Her brother Antonio is arrested as a political prisoner in November of that year and sentenced to a twenty year prison term (he is released in 1963). In the early 1960s, Loewenthal and Herrera become active in helping refugees leave Cuba and publicizing Cuban abuses of civil liberties and the use of imprisonment as a means of punishing political dissent. In 1967, the couple moved to an apartment on East 19th Street in the Flatiron district of Manhattan (where Herrera still lives and works today, at age 102). In November 1970, Herrera applied for U.S. citizenship and is naturalized on August 2, 1971. Loewenthal retires from his teaching position at Stuyvesant in the early 1970s, having spent more than 45 years there as an English teacher. His teaching manner was described by his colleague Frank McCourt in McCourt’s well known memoir Teacher Man.59”My students were patient, but I could tell from the looks they exchanged, and the traffic in notes passing back and forth, that I was in a grammar wilderness. At Stuyvesant they had to know grammar for their classes in Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin. Roger [Goodman, then head of the English department at Stuyvesant] understood. He said, Maybe diagramming is not your strong point. He said some people just don’t have it. R’lene Dahlberg had it. Joe Curran certainly had it. After all, he was a graduate of Boston Latin, a school two and a half centuries older than Stuyvesant and, he claimed, more prestigious. Teaching at Stuyvesant for him was a step down in the world. He could diagram in Greek and Latin and probably French and German. That’s the kind of training you get at Boston Latin. Jesse Lowenthal had it, too, but of course he would. He was the oldest teacher in the department with his elegant three-piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front, his gold-rimmed spectacles, his old-world manners, his scholarship, Jesse who did not want to retire but, when he did, planned to spend his days studying Greek and drifting into the next life with Homer on his lips. It pleased Roger to know he had in his department a solid core of teachers who could be relied on to diagram at a moment’s notice. Roger said it was sad Joe Curran had such a drinking problem. Otherwise he could have entertained Jesse with miles of Homer from memory and, if Jesse was up to it, Virgil and Horace, and the one Joe favored out of his own great anger, Juvenal himself. In the teachers’ cafeteria Joe told me, Read your Juvenal so you’ll understand what’s going on in this miserable fookin’ country. Roger said it was sad about Jesse. Here he is in his twilight years with Christ only knows how many years of teaching under his belt. He doesn’t have the same energy for five classes a day. He asked to have his load reduced to four but no, oh no, the principal says no, the superintendent says no, all the way up the bureaucracy they say no, and Jesse says good-bye. Hello Homer. Hello Ithaca. Hello Troy. That’s Jesse. We’re going to lose a great teacher and, boy, could he diagram. What he did with a sentence and a piece of chalk would stun you. Beautiful.” (Teacher Man, 186-187). Loewenthal’s health began to decline in 1996, and Herrera stops painting and spends the next few years caring for him until his death in New York City on December 11, 2000, aged 98. In 2005, a large respective show dedicated to Herrera’s work was mounted in a prominent New York gallery, and its success encourages Herrera to begin paining again in 2006, and Herrera has enjoyed increasing international acclaim over the subsequent years. As a result of Herrera’s deserved but belated recognition, Loewenthal is now best known not for his own teaching or writing, but as Herrera’s long-time spouse.60In a 2010 feature published in English newspaper The Telegraph, Herrera is quoted as saying: “Jesse was a saint and I’m thinking back and I never even thanked him for all he did for me. He was the only one I ever spoke to about my paintings. He understood what I was doing and he was always supportive. I made him move to neighbourhoods that were cheap and sometimes dangerous so I could have room to paint. We had a very good life, actually. We became closer and closer and by the end we were one person. We could think without talking. He died right here in this room with me holding his hand. Lately I miss him a lot.” In 2016, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Yale University Press partnered to publish Dana Miller’s Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight, a beautiful and thoroughly researched career retrospective full of autobiographical detail and rich visual material related to Herrera (and to a lesser extent, Loewenthal).
  16. Emanuel Carnevali’s translations of Arthur Rimbaud, “Wakes—III” and “To One Reason.” Emanuel Carnevali was born on December 4, 1897 in Florence, Italy to  Tullio Carnevali, an accountant, and Matilde Piano, a morphine addict. Like Rakosi, Carnevali’s parents separated soon after his birth, and following his mother’s death in 1908, Carnevali was enrolled in boarding school, going on to study at secondary schools in Venice and Bologna. Carnevali did not get along well with his father, and chose to emigrate, alone, to the United States shortly after his sixteenth birthday, leaving from Genoa in March 1914 and arriving in New York in April. Upon arriving in the United States, Carnevali took an assortment of odd jobs in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and gradually taught himself English. In 1917, Carnevali married Emilia Valenza, a fellow Italian immigrant, and she worked to support them while he wrote. An aspiring poet, he joined the city’s literary avant garde, befriending writers like Alfred Kreymborg (the editor of Others), Lola Ridge, Max Eastman (editor of The Liberator), Babette Deutsch, and Waldo Frank. Like Robert McAlmon, he met William Carlos Williams at a gathering Lola Ridge’s home, and Carnevali and Williams became friends, with Williams admiring the young Italian’s energy, fearlessness, and independence. Around this time he also began to publish poems regularly in Poetry magazine. In 1919, Harriet Monroe came to New York City and invited Carnevali to move to Chicago and join her as the associate editor of Poetry magazine, a position which he held for six months. While living in Chicago, Carnevali fell victim to the global epidemic of sleeping sickness (encephalitis lethargica), a neurological condition which caused him to shake uncontrollably and would afflict him for the rest of his life. After pursuing, unsuccessfully, various cures in the midwestern United States, Carnevali left the United States and returned to Bazzano, Italy, a small town just west of Bologna. He would spend most of the next two decades in poverty and in poor health, moving between various hospitals and poorhouses, often reliant on the generosity of former literary friends (like Boyle, McAlmon, Williams, and Pound). Carnevali continued writing and publishing poetry in English, however, and carried on an active correspondence with Williams, Boyle, Ezra Pound and others. In 1925, Bill Bird’s Three Mountains Press published his collection A Hurried Man from Paris, the same year it published Pound’s Draft of XVI Cantos. A handful of English-language volumes by Carnevali have been published following his death (by suffocation) on January 11, 1942, including an autobiography (edited by Kay Boyle and published in 1967), Fireflies (a small letter press edition of seven poems published in 1970), and Furnished Rooms (a sloppily edited collection of work published in 2006 which is mainly comprised by poems which first appeared in A Hurried Man).61For a good overview of Carnevali’s life and work, see Alan Davies’ review “To Call Them by Their Dead Name” in Jacket: http://jacketmagazine.com/35/davies-carnevali.shtml. Three works by Carnevali have also been published posthumously in Italian: an Italian edition of his autobiography, edited by Maria Pia Carnevali and Luigi Ballerini and published in 1978, Voglio disturbare l’America (a collection of letters), published in 1981, and Diario Bazzanese, published in 1994.
  17. John Wheelwright, “Slow Curtain.” John Brooks Wheelwright was born on September 9, 1897 to Edmund March (Ned) Wheelwright, a prominent Boston architect, and Elizabeth (Bessie) Brooks, a scion of one of Boston’s wealthiest families. Wheelwright attended Harvard.62Biography by Alan Wald here: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/wheelwright/bio.htm. “has appeared in The Hound and Horn.” He was struck by a car and killed on September 13, 1940.
  18. Richard Johns, “The Sphinx.” Richard Johns (1904-1970) was born Richard Vernon Johnson on October 29, 1904, to Benjamin Newhall Johnson, a prominent Boston lawyer, and Virginia Vernon Newhall. While he had received a classical education grounded in the liberal arts, Johns had not graduated from either high school or college and had published a few of his own poems and stories in little-known magazines. In 1931, Johns would have been best known, however, as the editor of Pagany, an attractive literary magazine named after Williams’ novel A Voyage to Pagany which Johns had begun publishing in January 1930 and which had already featured the work of Williams, Zukofsky, McAlmon, and Reznikoff. Johns had moved from Boston to an apartment/office in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park late in 1930, and met Zukofsky for the first time in person when Zukofsky returned to New York City from Madison over the holiday break. Johns’ poem “The Sphinx” is dedicated to William Carlos Williams and was based on events from a week-long vacation Johns took with the Williams family to East Gloucester, Massachusetts in the summer of 1930. In February 1932, Johns’ father died, dramatically reducing Johns’ income and effectively killing Pagany, which Johns suspended following the publication of the magazine’s twelfth issue in February 1933. In 1934, Johns married Veronica Parker, with whom he collaborated on a series of mystery novels. The couple later moved to Cuttingsville, Vermont, where Johns devoted himself to horticulture and photography. In 1969, Johns collaborated with Stephen Halpert to produce A Return to Pagany, which includes a wealth of documentary information related to the magazine. Johns died on June 17, 1970. The full archives for the magazine, including extensive correspondence between Johns, Williams, Zukofsky, and letters from almost all of the other “Objectivists” (including Forrest Anderson, Basil Bunting, Mary Butts, Emanuel Carnevali, Frances Fletcher, Charles Henri Ford, Norman Macleod, Lorine Niedecker, Ezra Pound, Samuel Putnam, Carl Rakosi (Callman Rawley), Kenneth Rexroth, Harry Roskolenko, Parker Tyler, R. B. N. Warriston, and John Wheelwright are held in the University of Delaware’s Special Collections.
  19. Martha Champion, “Poem.” Martha Lee Champion (1910-1965) was a student of Zukofsky’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as a graduate instructor for the 1930-1931 academic year. Born in Los Angeles in 1910 to Earl Champion, the superintendent of the Southern California Hardwood and Manufacturing Company, and Vera Barber, Champion earned an Honors degree in Greek from the University of Wisconsin in 1933 before studying anthropology and linguistics under Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict at Columbia University from 1933-1935. Champion conducted field work among native peoples in the American West, where she investigated peyote songs among the Comanche, Navajo, and Fox people. Her poem “After Meleager” was included in Ann Winslow (Verna Elizabeth Grubb)’s 1935 anthology Trial Balances, where it was paired with work by Wallace Stevens. On November 13, 1935, Champion married Louis Huot, of Duluth, Minnesota. That same year, the couple moved to France, where they lived until 1940. While in France, Martha published an article on peyote songs in Eugène and Maria Jolas’ magazine transition. After returning to the United States in 1940, she continued her graduate studies at Columbia, passing her Ph.D. examinations in 1946. For the next 12 years she taught anthropology at the University of Southern California and Los Angeles State College and conducted fieldwork among the Iroquois people on Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada. She earned a master’s degree in classical languages from USC in 1958, following which time she taught Latin in secondary schools in Canada and the United States until her death in 1965. She and her husband, E. P. Randle, a Colonel in the Canadian? military, had two children.63See a brief obituary:
  20. William Carlos Williams, “The Botticellian Trees.” Core “Objectivist”.
  21. Parker Tyler [Symposium]
  22. Charles Henri Ford [Symposium]
  23. Samuel Putnam [Symposium]
  24. Rene Taupin — Andre Salmon

Writers Published in An “Objectivists” Anthology

List of forthcoming publications from The New Review Editions

An announcement of forthcoming publications from The New Review Editions published in in the Winter 1931-1932 issue of The New Review. The first title listed is Zukofsky’s An “Objectivist Anthology”. Putnam ultimately did not publish the book, which was brought out instead by To, Publishers.

Shortly after the appearance of his “OBJECTIVISTS” 1931 issue of Poetry, Zukofsky began to work on selecting and editing a larger collection of work which he planned to publish as an “Objectivist” anthology. Zukofsky began work on the project, believing that the finished collection would be published by Samuel Putnam, who had printed two sections of Zukofsky’s “A” in the second issue of his Paris-based magazine The New Review, along with a lengthy editorial entitled “Black Arrow” which heaped praise on the “Objectivist” issue of Poetry praised Zukofsky as “the best, the most important critic that I am able to think of in America”.64This issue was even titled “The New Objectivism.” See New Review, 1: 2 (May-June-July 1931), 71-89. The fourth issue of The New Review (published in Winter 1931-1932) included an announcement for An “Objectivist Anthology” to be edited by Zukofsky and published in Spring 1932 [shown at right]. In October 1931, Zukofsky finished his edits for the anthology and sent a manuscript to Putnam, who greeted him with several weeks of silence. Unfortunately for Zukofsky, he had done the work entirely on speculation, without securing either a contract nor payment for the anthology from Putnam. As the months ticked by without further word from Putnam about the anthology, Zukofsky became increasingly anxious that Putnam would not publish the anthology. In February 1932, Zukofsky’s worst fears were confirmed when he received Putnam’s rejection.65According to Tom Sharp, Zukofsky wrote to Pound on 15 March 1932 chastising himself for sacrificing his money, time, and energy without a serious promise of publication, and announced that “he would no longer submit work unsolicited or without pay, especially for editors like Putnam,” though there would be several more cruel lessons for Zukofsky to learn about the poetry and publishing “biz” in the years to come. I need to see these letters directly–they’re at Yale. After his publishing deal with Putnam fell apart, Zukofsky managed to persuade the Oppens to print the anthology as the final publication of TO, Publishers, the ill-fated publishing venture they had founded in the previous year.66George and Mary Oppen had funded the press and supervised the production of its books from Le Beausset, a small village in the southeast of France. Zukofsky was employed as the press’ managing editor between November 1931 and August 1932, when the Oppen’s notified him that they were discontinuing the press and his salary. For more details on To, see http://theobjectivists.org/the-work#to. The Oppens published the anthology in August 1932 using a printer based in Dijon, France.

An “Objectivists” Anthology contained work by 15 writers, eight of whom had also been included in the ‘Objectivists’ 1931 issue of Poetry the year before. The most notable inclusions to the anthology were T.S. Eliot, whose poem “Marina” Zukofsky particularly admired, and Ezra Pound, who refused Zukofsky’s requests to contribute a canto but did give Zukofsky two short lyrics, one of which, “Gentle Jheezus sleek and wild,” reads as both aggressively racist and anti-semitic. In addition to some 200 pages of poetry, the anthology included “Recencies in Poetry,” a talk Zukofsky had given at the Gotham Book Mart in August 1931 to clarify his editorial statements in the February 1931 issue of Poetry as its preface, and reprinted Zukofsky’s “Program ‘Objectivists’ 1931” from Poetry as the book’s appendix.67The full table of contents of the anthology can be found at Z-Site: http://www.z-site.net/biblio-research/the-objectivists-and-their-publications/.

  1. Louis Zukofsky [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  2. Basil Bunting [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  3. Mary Butts (1890-1937) was an English modernist writer who was well-known to Ezra Pound and had previously been married to the poet and publisher John Rodker. Many of her papers are now held by Yale’s Beinecke Library.
  4. Frances Sarah Fletcher was born in Bridport, Vermont on May 20, 1894 to James H. Fletcher and Anna Bells. Fletcher graduated from Vassar College in 1914, after which time she worked as a teacher and translator for the banking industry. Fletcher published a slim volume of poetry A Boat of Glass in Philadelphia in 1926 and met Zukofsky [how?] … . In 1935, Fletcher married Spahr Hourlland, a construction engineer for a retail department store who had served as a Captain in the United States Army during the First World War, and changed her name to Frances Hourlland. In 1940, the couple was living in Los Angeles. Spahr died in October 1954 in Sacramento, California, and Frances subsequently returned to Holliston, Massachusetts, near Boston, where she lived until her own death in February 1978. Some of Fletcher’s work was published under the pseudonym Anne Woodbridge. Many of her papers are now held by Bowdoin College.
  5. Robert McAlmon [in Poetry]
  6. George Oppen [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  7. Ezra Pound [obvious]
  8. Carl Rakosi [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  9. Kenneth Rexroth [in Poetry]
  10. Charles Reznikoff [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  11. William Carlos Williams [in Poetry] Core “Objectivist” treated in greater detail elsewhere on the site.
  12. Forrest Clayton Anderson (1903-1977) published his first poem, “S2,” in the Fall 1929 issue of Charles Henri Ford’s magazine Blues and had poems included in each of the magazine’s final three issues, where they appeared along with work from Rexroth, Williams, and Zukofsky. He also published work in Eugene Jolas’ magazine transition and Richard Johns’ Pagany. Between 1929 and 1931, Anderson and Johns carried on a busy correspondence, and Johns published poetry by Anderson in the first,68Anderson’s “Sonnet” appeared in the inaugural issue of Pagany alongside work by Mary Butts, McAlmon, Rexroth, Williams, and Zukofsky. third69Anderson’s “Hotel for Sailors” appears in the third issue of Pagany along with work by Zukofsky, Reznikoff, McAlmon, and Emanuel Carnevali., and eighth issues of Pagany.70Two poems by Anderson were featured in the Autumn 1931 issue along with work by Butts, Carnevali, McAlmon, Rakosi, Williams, and Zukofsky. Anderson would publish several collections of poetry, including Sea Pieces and Other Poems (1935), Further Sea Pieces (1945), Circumnavigation of the Halo of a World (1951), In the Forests of Hell and of Heaven (a long prose poem in nine sequences published in 1958), Toward Other Shores (1961), and Portlights (1972). Anderson’s poetry was included in Stephen Coote’s Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983) and a collection of his publications along with some letters are now held at the University of Idaho.
  13. T.S. Eliot [obvious]
  14. R.B.N. Warriston. I have been able to discover very little biographical detail about R.B.N. Warriston apart from the fact that he lived in the early 1930s in White Plains, New York. Besides his inclusion in An “Objectivists” Anthology, he published work in the early 1930s in both Pagany71His poem “Sea Gulls” appeared in the Summer 1931 issue of Pagany along with work by Rakosi, Reznikoff, McAlmon, Zukofsky, Williams, and Howard Weeks, and his “Herald-Tribune Acme” in the Winter 1932 issue next to work by McAlmon, Rakosi, and Frances Fletcher. and Poetry magazine.72His poem “Sanctuary” appeared in the July 1933 issue of Poetry.
  15. Jerry Reisman [collaborator with LZ]. Reisman met Zukofsky in 1929, while he was a student and Zukofsky was a substitute teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Reisman went on to study physics at the City College of New York in the early 1930s and later worked as an electrical engineer for an aviation firm. He advised Zukofsky on the mathematical portions of Zukofsky’s “A”-8 and “A”-9 and collaborated with Zukofsky on several writing projects, including a never-produced cinematic treatment of James Joyce’s Ulysses that was encouraged at various moments in the early 1930s by both Ezra Pound and Joyce himself. In September 1936, Reisman and Zukofsky visited Niedecker on Blackhawk Island, and Reisman wrote a detailed account of his friendship with Niedecker and his view of Zukofsky and Niedecker’s relationship in 1991.73”Lorine: Some Memories of a Friend,” in Lorine Niedecker: Woman and Poet, pp. 35-47. At the conclusion of World War II, Reisman founded Techlit Consultants, a technical writing firm, and employed Zukofsky from March 1946 until January 1947, when the Reisman ended his friendship with Zukofsky.74See The Poem of a Life, pp. 181-189, 225, 473-475 for Mark Scroggins’ view of the Zukofsky-Reisman friendship, and “On Some Conversations with Celia Zukofsky,” in Sagetrieb 10, no. 3 (Winter 1991), pp. 139-150, for Reisman’s account of his relationship with Louis and Celia.

The Formation of the “Objectivist” Core

If there was, in fact, an “Objectivist” core, comprised of Zukosky, Reznikoff, Oppen, Williams, Rakosi, Bunting and Niedecker, as I have argued, several questions must be answered. Chief among them: How did these seven writers come to know each other? What were the particular threads of connection which united them? How and why were these links forged, maintained, and, in some cases, dissolved?

As I argue in greater detail elsewhere on this site, the ‘Objectivists’ 1931 issue of Poetry might be more properly considered a mid-point rather than the beginning of the group’s affiliation, marking a public unveiling more than anything else.75The best extant resource which makes an effort to empirically document the pre-1931 “Objectivist” associations is Tom Sharp’s doctoral dissertation, “Objectivists” 1927-1934: A critical history of the work and association of Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Ezra Pound, and George Oppen, which he completed at Stanford University in 1982, and which includes a wealth of well-documented research on the extant correspondence between members of the “Objectivist” nexus in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Sharp did not pursue a career in academia and his dissertation remained unpublished until 2015, when he published large portions of it, at my urging, on his own website: http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/index.html. See Chapters 1, 9, and 11 especially. While Poetry marked a rough initial presentation, the main core of writers included in that issue as “Objectivists” had begun developing their own affinity and publication network as early as 1928.

There can be no disputing that Louis Zukofsky was the group’s central figure, both as the inventor of the “Objectivist” label and as the editor who was primarily responsible for the selection of the writers and work presented publicly as “Objectivist.” What is frequently less appreciated, however, was the significant, though less visible, role played in the formation and coherence of the group by the better established modernist poets William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound.

The Shadow of Ezra Pound

The roots of the “Objectivist” nexus are nearly all entangled in some way with the sprawling, colonizing (though frequently generous) ambitions of the Rapallo-based Ezra Pound. While less immediately apparent than Zukofsky, Pound’s efforts as a behind the scenes orchestrator, advisor, and would-be impresario were crucially significant in both providing the impetus for Zukofsky’s efforts to assemble and perpetuate this group as well as providing the platform for the invention of a “movement” in the first place. Despite his centrality to the formation of the “Objectivist” nexus, I have chosen not to include Pound as a core “Objectivist” here, both because, apart from his consenting to be included in Zukofsky’s An ‘Objectivists’ Anthology, he himself never gave any indication of voluntary affiliation with the label,76Zukofsky had wanted to include Pound in his issue of Poetry, but Pound demurred, though Zukofsky’s contributor notes indicate that he had planned to include a blank page in the issue as Pound’s contribution to the issue: “The editor also regrets the omission of a blank page representing Ezra Pound’s contribution to the issue–a page reserved for him as an indication of his belief that a country tolerating outrages like article 211 of the U. S. Penal Code, publishers’ “overhead,” and other impediments to literary life, “does not deserve to have any literature whatsoever.” Mr. Pound gave over to younger poets the space offered him.” (295) and because there is no shortage of published material examining Pound’s life and career.

Pound’s poetic ideas and principles cast a large shadow over each of the core “Objectivists,” but he was particularly close to Louis Zukofsky and Basil Bunting, with whom he carried on an extensive correspondence through most of the 1930s and to whom he dedicated his 1938 book Guide to Kulchur: “To Louis Zukofsky and Basil Bunting strugglers in the desert.” Zukofsky in turn had already publicated declared his position via a viz the elder poet, dedicating An “Objectivists” Anthology to Pound and referring to him there as “still for the poets of our time / the / most important.”77 Pound’s poetic advice, and in particular, the statements he had made in relation to the Imagiste program in 1913, were important to all of the core “Objectivists.” In a December 7, 1931 letter to Pound, Zukofsky confided that his in-process long poem “A” was “following out of your don’ts almost to the letter,” referring to Pound’s well-known March 1913 essay “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.”77Pound/Zukofsky, 110-111. Similarly, Charles Reznikoff recalled in a 1969 interview with L.S. Dembo:

When I was twenty-one [c. 1915], I was particularly impressed by the new kind of poetry being written by Ezra Pound, H. D., and others, with sources in French free verse. It seemed to me just right, not cut to patterns, however cleverly, nor poured into ready molds–that sounds like an echo of Pound–but words and phrases flowing as the thought; to be read just like common speech–that sounds like Whitman–but for stopping at the end of each line: and this like a rest in music or a turn in the dance78Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 194.

When asked about his recollections of his conversations with Oppen and Zukofsky regarding ‘objectivist technique,’ Reznikoff told Dembo:

Well, I hate to take any aura from our talks as I remember them, if they have any to begin with, but we talked about something quite practical. We couldn’t get our poetry accepted by regular publishers, so we thought it would be nice if we organized our own publishing firm, with each of us paying for the printing of his own book. We picked the name “Objectivist” because we had all read Poetry of Chicago and we agreed completely with all that Pound was saying. We didn’t really discuss the term itself; it seemed all right-pregnant. It could have meant any number of things. But the mere fact that we didn’t discuss its meaning doesn’t deprive it of its validity. … I think we all agreed that the term “objectivism,” as we understood Pound’s use of it, corresponded to the way we felt poetry should be written. And that included Williams, too. What we were reacting from was Tennyson. We were anti-Tennysonian. His kind of poetry didn’t represent the world we knew-the streets of New York or of East Rutherford or Paterson. It might have represented the idyllic countryside where Tennyson lived, I don’t doubt, or the world in which Swinburne lived–that semi-classical world. We recognized its validity; I’m sure we all felt how good were things like “the hounds of spring are on winter’s traces” or the beginning of “The Lotos-Eaters.” Some of it was magnificent, but it wasn’t us.79Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 196-197.

In his interview with Dembo published in the same issue of Contemporary Literature, Rakosi would preface some very pointed criticism of Pound’s personal grandiosity and the epic tone adopted in the Cantos by stating that “I had better admit that I believe that Pound’s critical writing–particularly the famous “Don’ts” essay–is an absolute foundation stone of contemporary American writing”80Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 180. Similarly, though Pound and the Oppens diverged very strongly on a number of points, he and Williams were the first two authors the Oppens chose to publish under the To, Publishers imprint and Mary Oppen told Serge Fauchereau in a 1976 interview that “We understood the importance of Pound, and to us he was a tremendous figure.”81Speaking with George Oppen, 132).

Not only was Pound important to the various “Objectivists” as a poetic predecessor and influence, he also played a much more direct role in the group’s formation through his actions as a publisher, facilitator, and erstwhile impresario. His short-lived magazine The Exile (four issues appeared in 1927 and 1928) might even be considered something of a proto-“Objectivist” publication,82Tom Sharp has argued that the magazine was the group’s “first public meeting place” and that by “express[ing] many of the principles, especially about the importance of group activity, that Pound continued to impress upon them” it placed the “Objectivists” firmly within that “tradition in poetry for which Pound was the principal spokesman” (http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html). as it featured work by Zukofsky,83His first major publication, “Poem Beginning ‘The'” appeared in The Exile 3, and the fourth and final issue of The Exile included another dozen or so pages from Zukofsky. Williams,84Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” which Zukofsky had been instrumental in editing, was published in The Exile 4. Williams wrote to Pound on May 17, 1928: “Your spy Zukofsky has been going over my secret notes for you. At first I resented his wanting to penetrate- now listen! – but finally I sez to him, All right, go ahead. So he took my pile of stuff into the city and he works at it with remarkably clean and steady fingers (to your long distance credit be it said) and he ups and choses a batch of writin that yous is erbout ter git perty damn quick if it hits a quick ship – when it gets ready – which it aren’t quite yit. What I have to send you will be in the form of a journal, each bit as perfect in itself as may be. I am however leaving everything just as selected by Zukofsky. It may be later that I shall use the stuff differently.” (Pound/Williams, 82) Zukofsky and Wiliams had first met in April of that year, which means that Williams had known Zukofsky for less than 2 months at the time that he sent Pound this remarkable indication his editorial trust. Rakosi,85Pound published four poems by Rakosi in The Exile 2 and his poem “Extracts from A Private Life” in The Exile 4 McAlmon,86The Exile 2 included McAlmon’s short story “Truer than Most Accounts” and an essay of his on Gertrude Stein was included in The Exile 4 and Howard Weeks,87His poem “Stunt Piece” was published in The Exile 3 and was the only previous publication for Weeks before his appearance in Poetry. each of whom would later be featured in Zukofsky’s “Objectivist” issue of Poetry.

In addition to The Exile, Pound also included a number of “Objectivist” writers in two anthologies he edited in the early 1930s, featuring Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, McAlmon, Eliot, Weeks, Tyler, and Carnevali in his 1932 Profile anthology and including work by Williams, Bunting, Zukofsky, Oppen, and Eliot in his 1933 Active Anthology. Pound also published a brief note in the “Books on Review” section of the February 21, 1933 issue of Contempo praising An “Objectivists” Anthology as “the first serious attempt since my first Imagiste collection to clean up the mess of contemporary poetry by means of an anthology, and ought to establish just as definite a date.”88Contempo, III: 6 (February 21, 1933), 7.

Not only did Pound publish a number of these writers before and after they became associated with the label “Objectivist,” he was also instrumental in recommending that Zukofsky (and other of his disciples) join with other writers to publish and promote significant literature in the United States. In fact, Pound had first begun urging Zukofsky to “form a group” to continue the momentum and impulse of his magazine The Exile in his second ever letter to Zukofsky, sent in February 1928, writing: “Also any of your contemporaries with whom you care to associate. Somebody OUGHT to form a group in the U.S. to make use of the damn thing now that I have got in motion. Failing development of some such cluster I shall stop with No. 6. [of The Exile]”89Pound/Zukofsky, 6.

In his very next letter to Zukofsky, Pound attempted to catalyze the formation of such a cluster by forwarding his old friend William Carlos Williams’ address to Zukofsky and suggesting that he introduce himself.90Pound, Williams, and Hilda Doolittle [H.D.] all met in Philadelphia in the early 1900s. Pound and Williams met in the fall of 1902, when both were enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where H.D. father was a professor of Astronomy. In 1903, Pound transferred to Hamilton College, but continued to see Williams during school breaks when he returned to his parents’ home in Wyncote, a Philadelphia suburb. In 1905, Pound returned to Penn to begin work on his master’s degree, and they resumed their friendship in earnest. Williams left Philadelphia in 1906 for a medical internship in New York City, and Pound took his ill-fated job teaching foreign languages at Wabash College in a small Indiana town in 1907 (he was fired in the spring of 1908 and left for Europe shortly thereafter). Pound dedicated his 1912 collection Ripostes to Williams and included Williams’ poem “Postlude” in his 1914 Des Imagistes anthology and his poems “In Harbor” and “The Wanderer” in his 1915 Catholic Anthology. He also wrote an introductory note to a selection of poems from Williams’ book The Tempers published in The Poetry Review in October 1912 and reviewed the book in The New Freewoman in December 1913. Though no letters from Williams to Pound written prior to 1921 have survived, they corresponded regularly for the next several decades, and a significant portion of their extant correspondence can be found in Hugh Witemeyer’s Pound/Williams: The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Williams Carlos Williams, published by New Directions in 1996. The early years of their friendship are briefly summarized on pages 3-5 of that book. Zukofsky did so almost immediately; the two writers first met in a NY restaurant April 1, 1928, where Zukofsky asked Williams to read his work, and volunteered his own services as an editor of Williams’ unpublished manuscripts. Both liked each other immediately and each quickly sent back to Pound separate reports on their budding friendship. In August 1928, after receiving reports that Zukofsky and Williams had hit it off, Pound wrote Zukofsky another lengthy letter, urging him to

make an effort toward restarting some sort of life in N.Y.; sfar as I know there has been none in this sense since old Stieglitz organized (mainly foreign group) to start art. … I suggest you form some sort of gang to INSIST on interesting stuff (books) (1.) being pubd. promptly, and distributed properly. 2. simultaneous attacks in as many papers as poss. on abuses definitely damaging la vie intellectuelle. … there are now several enlightened members of yr. body impolitic [meaning the United States] that might learn the val. of group action91Pound/Zukofsky, 11.

Acting on Pound’s suggestions, Zukofsky contacted several more of the writers Pound had recommended to him, including Joseph [Joe] Vogel, an aspiring young writer who had recently graduated from Pound’s alma mater Hamilton College and, like Pound, had studied Romance languages. Vogel responded to Zukofsky’s overtures by writing directly to Pound, an in a November 21, 1928 letter Pound sent Vogel his beliefs regarding “the science of GROUPS,” and instructed him to share the contents of his letter with Zukofsky. His advice included the following recommendations:

[A]t the start you must find the 10% of matters that you agree on and the 10% plus value in each other’s work. [Second, he was not to expect a group to remain constant:] Take our groups in London. The group of 1909 had disappeared without the world being much the wiser. Perhaps a first group can only prepare the way for a group that will break through. The one or two determined characters will pass through 1st to 2nd or third groups. [Thirdly, there was] No use starting to crit. each other at start. Anyhow it requires more crit. faculty to discover the hidden 10% positive, than to fuss about 90% obvious imperfection. You talk about style, and mistrusting lit. socs. etc. Nacherly. Mistrust people who fuss about paint and finish before they consider girders and structure.” Fourth, “You ’all’ presumably want some sort of intelligent life not dependent on cash, and salesmanship. . . . Point of group is precisely to have somewhere to go when you don’t want to be bothered about salesmanship. (Paradox?? No.) … When you get five men who trust each other you are a long way to a start. If your stuff won’t hold the interest of the four or of someone in the four, it may not be ready to print.92The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 219-221. Here Vogel is named “James” instead of “Joseph.

Vogel replied with some hesitation, [find this response at Yale?] to which Pound sent a more exasperated outburst on 23 January 1929: “Dear Vogel: Yr. painfully evangelical epistle recd. if you are looking for people who agree with you!!!! How the hell many points of agreement do you suppose there were between Joyce, W. Lewis, Eliot and yrs. truly in 1917; or between Gaudier and Lewis in 1913; or between me and Yeats, etc.?, telling Vogel that if respected decent writing, writing which expressed a man’s ideas, he ought to exchange his with others who have “ideas of any kind (not borrowed clichés) that irritate you enough to make you think or take out your own ideas and look at ’em.”93The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 222. More on Vogel/Pound correspondence in Paideuma 27:2-3 [Fall/Winter 1998], 197-225.

Not only did Pound introduce Zukofsky to Williams and Vogel (who would not be associated with the “Objectivists”), he was also instrumental in connecting Zukofsky to several other of his acquaintances who would become members of the “Objectivist” group, including Basil Bunting, whom William Butler Yeats famously described as “one of Ezra’s more savage disciples,”94The Letters of W.B. Yeats, 759. Ed. Allan Wade (MacMillan, New York, 1954) and Carl Rakosi, whom he had published in two issues of The Exile.95Bunting wrote Zukofsky a postcard two days after his marriage to Marian Culver on Long Island that read, simply: “Dear Mr Zukofsky – Ezra Pound says I ought to look you up. May I?” Zukofsky assented, the two men quickly became friends, and would carry on a lengthy correspondence over the subsequent decades. See The Poem of a Life, pp. 73-74 and A Strong Song Tows Us, pp. 162-168 for more detailed accounts of the origin of Bunting and Zukofsky’s friendship. Pound first mentions Rakosi in a letter to Zukofsky filled with advice about assembling his guest edited issue of Poetry dated 25 October 1930, indicating that he “may be dead, I wish I cd. trace him” and passing along his last known address in Kenosha, Wisconsin (Pound/Zukofsky, 51). Pound was also indirectly responsible for Zukofsky’s meeting the Oppens, since their the Oppen-Zukofsky relationship began with George’s chance discovery of the third issue of The Exile (which featured Zukofsky’s “Poem Beginning ‘The'”) while browsing the poetry section at the Gotham Book Mart shortly after his and Mary’s arrival in New York City in the late 1920s.96Mary Wright, the wife of designer Russel Wright, introduced the Oppens to Louis Zukofsky at a party sometime in 1928. See Mary Oppen’s account of their meeting in Meaning a Life, 84-85. [need to include more details on Pound’s role in Monroe giving LZ guest editorship of Poetry, and subsequent LZ publication efforts/schemes — To, Publishers and Objectivist and Active Anthologies]

Zukofsky also attempted to make recommendations of his friends and acquaintances in the “Objectivist” circle to Pound, though he did so far less successfully. It was Zukofsky who ‘discovered’ and introduced Pound to Reznikoff,97In a letter dated December 9, 1929 Pound praises some “Reznikof prose” that Zukofsky had sent him as being “very good” and in January 1930, Zukofsky informs Pound of an upcoming meeting with Reznikoff in which he intends to “talk business” regarding plans to use Reznikoff’s printing press to publish and circulate a wider range of work. Their surviving letters from 1930 make several additional references to Reznikoff and Zukofsky’s “sincerity and objectification” essay on Reznikoff’s work in particular. Oppen,98Zukofsky made reference to his having sent Pound several unpublished Oppen poems in a letter dated June 18, 1930. This manuscript was recently been found in the Pound papers held at Yale by the scholar David Hobbs and published by New Directions as 21 Poems. See pp. 26-44 of Pound/Zukofsky for the letters Pound and Zukofsky exchanged during the period in question., Niedecker,99Niedecker is first mentioned in the Pound/Zukofsky correspondence in February 1935, when Zukofsky writes “Glad you agreed with me as to the value of Lorine Niedecker’s work and are printing it in Westminster,” a reference to the Spring-Summer 1935 issue of Bozart-Westminster, which Pound edited with John Drummond and T.C. Wilson and which featured several poems and a dramatic scenario by Niedecker (Pound/Zukofsky, 161). This was a particularly strained time in their relationship, largely exacerbated by political differences over fascism and economic theory, and Pound’s response was particularly nasty, dismissing Niedecker’s work and insulting Zukofsky’s critical acumen. Rexroth, and Henry Zolinsky, but Pound never became enthusiastic about the work of any of Zukofsky’s acquaintances.100Zukofsky sent Pound work by Oppen, Rakosi, Reznikoff, and Rexroth when Pound was assembling his Active Anthology in 1933, but of Zukofsky’s submissions Pound only included work by Rakosi and Oppen in the final selection.

Formation of the Initial Core

The core of the initial group consisted of Zukofsky, Williams, Reznikoff, and the Oppens, all of whom knew each other by the end of 1928, with various members of this group meeting somewhat regularly in or near New York City over the next half dozen years.101Zukofsky spent the 1930-1931 academic year teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Oppens lived in California and France for significant periods in the early 1930s, but apart from these exceptions, this core group all lived within 20 miles of each other in the New York metro area from 1928 through 1935. Basil Bunting lived in New York for several months in 1930 and 1931, during which time he established friendships with both Williams and Zukofsky, and he corresponded with Williams for the next few years and with Zukofsky for the next several decades.102Williams references having supper with Basil Bunting and his American wife Marian and Robert McAlmon in a January 15, 1931 letter to Zukofsky (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 77). A finding list of all extant correspondence between Zukofsky, Pound, Eliot, and Williams has been compiled by Barry Ahearn and can be found at http://www2.tulane.edu/liberal-arts/english/ahearn/zukofsky_search_form.cfm. The Oppens, who were not in New York City while Bunting was living there, did however meet both Ezra Pound and the Buntings during their visit to Rapallo in 1931 or 1932?, and met again with Pound in Paris shortly before they returned to the United States early in 1933.103The Oppens had financed the publication by TO, Publishers of a book consisting of two of Pound’s prose works. They met with Pound in a Parisian café to inform him that they could not carry on their publishing efforts for financial reasons and that they would not print his ABC of Economics, as he had hoped. For Mary Oppen’s later account of their relationship with Pound and Bunting during this time, see her Meaning a Life, pp. 131-137. Rakosi was initially connected with the group solely through correspondence with Zukofsky, as he was living in Texas during the early 1930s and did not move back to New York City until 1935, by which time the Oppens and Zukofsky had broken their friendship and the Objectivist Press had essentially ceased operating as a collective publishing venture. While Rakosi and Zukofsky enjoyed rich social relations between 1935 and 1940, when both men lived in New York City, Rakosi was already drifting away from poetry and towards a long professional career as a social worker.104Rakosi stopped reading and writing verse entirely towards the end of his time in New York City. Rakosi, who had changed his name to Callman Rawley for professional reasons, earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and married Leah Jaffe in the spring of 1939. Following what he described as “a dreadful existential state, something grey and purposeless between living and dying, and so physical that for a while I was sure I was going to die” that came on when he realized that he was going to stop writing poetry, Rakosi took a job in Saint Louis in 1940 and “went on with my life as a social worker and therapist” (Autobiography in Contemporary Autobiography series, 208). For more on this period in Rakosi’s life, see http://theobjectivists.org/the-lives/carl-rakosi/. Niedecker began corresponding with Zukofsky shortly after reading the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry in her local library, and she first travelled to New York City late in 1933. Niedecker met Charles Reznikoff, the Oppens, and Williams while living with Zukofsky in New York City in the 30s, and both Rakosi and Bunting visited her at her home on Blackhawk Island in the late 1960s.105Carl Rakosi visited Lorine Niedecker at her home in 1967/8 [details needed]. Though Bunting and Niedecker did not meet in person until June 1967, when Bunting and his daughters visited Niedecker at her Blackhawk Island home, they had known each other through correspondence, and for a short time Bunting had explored the possibility of going into the carp-seining business with Niedecker’s father Henry. Niedecker wrote to Cid Corman on June 15, 1966: “Basil Bunting–yes, I came close to meeting him when he was in this country in the 30’s. Some mention at the time of his going into the fishing business (he had yeoman muscles LZ said and arrived in New York with a sextant) with my father on our lake and river but it was the depression and at that particular time my dad felt it best to ‘lay low’ so far as starting fresh with new equipment was concerned and a new partner – the market had dropped so low for our carp – and I believe BB merely lived a few weeks with Louie without engaging in any business. He’s probably a very fine person and I’ve always enjoyed his poetry” (Faranda, “Between Your House and Mine“: The Letters of Lorine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960-1970, 88).

Of all of the major groups or movements in 20th century American poetry, the “Objectivists” are perhaps the most poorly understand and, ironically considering their own poetics, the most subject to distorting mythologization. One of the major reasons for the still widely-held inaccuracies or misbeliefs about the group even among scholars and literary historians simply has to do with timing. By this I mean that by the time that members of this group returned to publishing new work (beginning in the early 1960s) and sparking growing interest in their lives and writing from a new generation of poets, scholars and general readers (spurred especially by L.S. Dembo’s publication of interview with four “Objectivists” in Contemporary Literature in the Spring of 1969), the three men who were in the best position to give an accurate recounting of the group’s formation and origins were either unwilling or unable to contribute to the historical record. Williams had suffered several strokes and was in failing health (he would die in March 1963), Pound was disgraced by his wartime actions and about to enter several years of largely silent exile following his release from a lengthy confinement in St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital,106For more on this period in Pound’s life, see J.J. Wilhelm’s Ezra Pound: The Tragic Years, pp. 336-357, especially and Zukofsky was generally unwilling to participate in group events with other “Objectivists” (especially George Oppen) and seemed to be increasingly annoyed by and dismissive of questions about their decades-earlier association. In this vacuum, and without ready access to the archive of primary materials now available to researchers, literary historians, scholars, and other critics and readers turned to other members of the group and began to develop their own working definitions of the “Objectivist” movement, and among the less precise, of “objectivism” (or even “objectism”)107This was the term Charles Olson used to refer to the group in his influential “Projective Verse” manifesto, published in 1950. Olson writes: “Which gets us to what I promised, the degree to which the projective involves a stance toward reality outside a poem as well as a new stance towards the reality of a poem itself. It is a matter of content, the content of Homer or of Euripides or of Seami as distinct from that which I might call the more “literary” masters. From the moment the projective purpose of the act of verse is recognized, the content does—it will—change. If the beginning and the end is breath, voice in its largest sense, then the material of verse shifts. It has to. It starts with the composer. The dimension of his line itself changes, not to speak of the change in his conceiving, of the matter he will turn to, of the scale in which he imagines that matter’s use. I myself would pose the difference by a physical image. It is no accident that Pound and Williams both were involved variously in a movement which got called “objectivism.” But that word was then used in some sort of a necessary quarrel, I take it, with “subjectivism.” It is now too late to be bothered with the latter. It has excellently done itself to death, even though we are all caught in its dying. What seems to me a more valid formulation for present use is “objectism,” a word to be taken to stand for the kind of relation of man to experience which a poet might state as the necessity of a line or a work to be as wood is, to be as clean as wood is as it issues from the hand of nature, to be as shaped as wood can be when a man has had his hand to it. Objectism is the getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego, of the “subject” and his soul, that peculiar presumption by which western man has interposed himself between what he is as a creature of nature (with certain instructions to carry out) and those other creations of nature which we may, with no derogation, call objects. For a man is himself an object, whatever he may take to be his advantages, the more likely to recognize himself as such the greater his advantages, particularly at that moment that he achieves an humilitas sufficient to make him of use. It comes to this: the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence. If he sprawl, he shall find little to sing but himself, and shall sing, nature has such paradoxical ways, by way of artificial forms outside himself. But if he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets objects share. And by an inverse law his shapes will make their own way. It is in this sense that the projective act, which is the artist’s act in the larger field of objects, leads to dimensions larger than the man. For a man’s problem, the moment he takes speed up in all its fullness, is to give his work his seriousness, a seriousness sufficient to cause the thing he makes to try to take its place alongside the things of nature. This is not easy. Nature works from reverence, even in her destruction (species go down with a crash). But breath is man’s special qualification as animal. Sound is a dimension he has extended. Language is one of his proudest acts. And when a poet rests in these as they are in himself (in his physiology, if you like, but the life in him, for all that) then he, if he chooses to speak from these roots, works in that area where nature has given him size, projective size” (“Projective Verse,” available online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69406/projective-verse). as a historical movement in twentieth-century American poetry. As with any acts of canon formation, anthologizing, and literary-historical movement building, there were simplifications, errors, and partisan exaggerations, though distortions and mythologizing have been exceptionally pronounced in the discussion of and construction of the “Objectivist” legacy. [reasons why: Zuk’s nonparticipation, Oppen’s long silence, the distance between 30s activity and 60s reemergence, the paucity of the historical record, their leftist political commitments and the desire of 60s-era inheritors to recast them as CP ‘heroes’, the variability of memory/experience among the several participants, etc.]

While I am not immune to the forces that produce these biases and contortions, I have sought to rely on primary sources and original documentary material wherever possible, and have attempted to act in fidelity with Reznikoff’s characterization of the Objectivist attitude toward judgment and testimony: “By the term ‘objectivist’ I suppose a writer may be meant who does not write directly about his feelings but about what he sees and hears; who is restricted almost to the testimony of a witness in a court of law; and who expresses his feelings indirectly by the selection of his subject-matter.”108Interview with Dembo, CL, 194. In the interview, Reznikoff would go on to extend the analogy more explicitly to the judicial context: “Now suppose in a court of law, you are testifying in a negligence case. You cannot get up on the stand and say, “The man was negligent.” That’s a conclusion of fact. What you’d be compelled to say is how the man acted. Did he stop before he crossed the street? Did he look? The judges of whether he is negligent or not are the jury in that case and the judges of what you say as a poet are the readers. That is, there is an analogy between testimony in the courts and the testimony of a poet,” 195. In reconstructing the origins of the “Objectivists,” I have attempted to practice good historiography, preferring where possible, to use primary documents produced as close in time to the events described as possible by individuals who were either direct participants or eyewitnesses to the events described.

“Objectivist” Origins

In gathering this heterogenous group of writers under the rubric of the “Objectivists,” I have taken care not to fall prey to reductive simplifications or mythologizing, either in the backward projection of some intention that did not exist at the particular historical moment that gave rise to the Zukofsky-led ‘movement’ or in the presumption of a monolithic poetics. These was never, for example, an “Objectivist” manifesto or other corporate statement of either poetics or ambition, despite several obvious opportunities to produce and present one, and Zukofsky alone was responsible for all of the early published statements that can reasonably be read as defining and describing the “Objectivists.”109These include his prose statements in the February and April 1931 issues of Poetry magazine as well as his preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology. The absence of a single galvanizing statement of praxis around which the group could have coalesced has contributed to some dispute over the precise meaning of the term and who it ought to apply to, even amongst the members of the group. Carl Rakosi, for instance, would later assert that he regarded Lorine Niedecker as the purest example of an “Objectivist”110He told Kimberly Bird: “Niedecker, by the way, was not a part of it at this time. I think I was the one really who first called her an Objectivist, because I thought that she was the most Objectivist of us all, and she is.” and expressed his view that: “No one name would have fit us all. By restricting the meaning of Objectivist to a poet’s process, however, Zukofsky was able to get around the difficulty and not exclude himself, for the things he pointed out in Reznikoff which were Objectivist did not describe his own work. No, if Reznikoff was an Objectivist, Zukofsky was not.”111Interview with George Evans and August Kleinzahler in Conjunctions, 221. It should be noted that Rakosi was not present in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and thus only had contact with Zukofsky via letters. Consequently, some of his recollections about the initial character of the group may be less accurate than those made by participants in the early meetings. Such bickering about group identities, however, is not uncommon, particularly among poets.112See Kenneth Rexroth’s famously dismissive (and possibly apocryphal) riposte to a Time magazine article designating him the “father of the ‘Beats'”: “An entomologist is not a bug” (qtd. in the introduction to Rexroth: Complete Poems, eds. Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, xxvi). And while Zukofsky himself would repeatedly claim that he had never intended to describe anything like a movement, that there had never been such a thing as “Objectivism” and that “the objectivist, then, is one person, not a group,”113Interview with Dembo, 205 the preponderance of evidence suggests that the poets gathered here did in fact comprise a coherent group, both in terms of several shared affinities and in their corporate efforts to publish each others’ work through the early 1930s.

A Group, Not a Movement

Zukofsky may not ultimately have approved of the “Objectivist” label he reluctantly invented, but it remains, in my view, the best and most accurate group appellation. Despite their considerable differences, these seven writers retained enough in common, even in their late work, for us to plausibly read and fruitfully consider them together as a loosely allied group, or in other words, as the core “Objectivists.” Despite his principled insistence on being read as a particular who takes care in his works for other particulars, taking Zukofsky’s later protestations too literally would be doing a disservice to the historical record.114In this, I concur with Tom Sharp, who has produced the best other sustained empirical examination of “Objectivist” relations in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and who argued that “agreement on fundamental principles need not (and did not) imply surrender of individual character or practice. Zukofsky’s statement that he was never a member of the group of “Objectivists”—in the light of such fundamentals—could only be credited to misunderstanding and personal differences,” before concluding that a close examination of the available documentary history justifies us “in regarding the Objectivists as a group.” See http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html

As noted previously, the “Objectivists” were publicly assembled and presented for the first time in Zukofsky’s guest-edited issue of Poetry magazine, published in February 1931.115Pound’s role in setting this up–his four long advice letters on 24, 25 and 28 October to Zukofsky after getting word from Monroe that she’d give him an issue to edit (Pound/Zukofsky, 45-59) Most of the writers Zukofsky included in the “Objectivists” issue were Americans, though he did include translations of Arthur Rimbaud by Emanuel Carnevali (born in Italy), work by Carl Rakosi (born in Hungary) and Basil Bunting (born in England), and an essay by René Taupin on the work of André Salmon, which included several examples of Salmon’s poems translated from their original French.116Pound had hoped that Zukofsky’s issue might be an ‘American’ issue, and he hoped to persuade Monroe to follow it up by allowing Basil Bunting to edit an ‘English’ issue, and René Taupin to edit a ‘French’ issue. While Monroe never again gave full editorial control of an entire issue of Poetry to anyone Pound had recommended, Bunting was involved in the selection of the poetry included in the ‘English Number,’ published in February 1932, exactly one year after the “Objectivists” issue. The ‘English Number’ included both Bunting’s satirical poem “Fearful Symmetry” as well as his savage review article entitled “English Poetry Today,” which opened by stating: “There is no poetry in England, none with any relation to the life of the country, or of any considerable section of it” and proceeded to insult nearly everything upon which Bunting settled his attention (264). The presentation of the “Objectivists” as a “group” was a contrivance made to satisfy Monroe’s expectations of a “new group” and to fulfill various promises made vicariously by Ezra Pound, and as such it was fairly thinly veiled. For example, Reznikoff wrote his friends Al and Mildred Lewin in February 1931: “There is a learned article about my verse in Poetry for this month from which I learn that I am “an objectivist” 117Selected Letters of Charles Reznikoff, 156. Even allowing for the possibility of wry self-deprecation, which would have been characteristic of Reznikoff, this can hardly be construed as evidence that the various writers presented in Zukofsky’s issue of Poetry consciously thought of themselves as members of a new group. Carl Rakosi, who was even further removed from the planning and conversations between Zukofsky, Williams,Reznikoff, and the Oppens in New York City, would later recall: “[I]n a sense Zukofsky foiled Harriet Monroe, was thumbing his nose at her: he never did define Objectivist as something with its own special properties and character, and he never meant to. He just wanted to get by. … When Zukofsky first wrote to sound out my reaction to the term Objectivist, I was going my own way and was not connected to anybody and wrote back that it was all right. I couldn’t say it wasn’t. To be objective was one of my goals. But whatever he worked out with her would be all right with me. I just wanted to be in the magazine, and when it appeared there I was, displayed in a showcase as a member of a new movement, suddenly important, bigger than life, discovered. I couldn’t help feeling wildly elated, at the same time thinking: Objectivist? Who, me? Why not? Maybe. What a cockamamie definition, however. But at the time I attached no significance to the thing. Nor did the others. I didn’t think anyone else would attach significance to it either.” (Interview with Evans and Kleinzahler, 222)[/ref]

Zukofsky himself expressed skepticism, or at least ambivalence about whether or not he even had assembled a group, confiding to Pound in a letter dated November 6, 1930: “Seems to me I have no group but people who write or at least try to show signs of doing it … The only progress made since 1912–is or are several good poems, i.e. the only progress possible–& criteria are in your prose works. Don’t know (my issue) will have anything to do with homogeneity (damn it) but with examples of good writing.” 118Pound/Zukofsky, 65 Later in the same letter, however, he would also tell Pound that “I’ll have a good a “movement” as that of the premiers imagistes–point is Wm. C. W. of today is not what he was in 1913, neither are you if you’re willing to contribute–if I’m going to show what’s going on today, you’ll have to. The older generation is not the older generation if it’s alive & up–Can’t see why you shd. appear in the H & H alive with 3 Cantos & not show that you are the (younger) generation in “Poetry.” What’s age to do with verbal manifestation, what’s history to do with it … I want to show the poetry that’s being written today–whether the poets are of masturbating age or the fathers of families don’t matter. … Most of the men I choose will not be people who have been in touch with you. Satisfied?” 119Pound/Zukofsky, 67.

Even if the production of an “Objectivist” movement was a half-hearted fiction, Zukofsky and others appeared to believe that it was something of a useful fiction, if only as a vaguely defined group name for public consumption.120Confused but curious readers wrote to Monroe and Poetry magazine almost immediately for clarification, and Zukofsky’s testy replies didn’t seem to help much. In the correspondence section of the April 1931 issue of Poetry, Harriet Monroe edited a clutch of reader letters inquiring about Zukofsky’s issue. Stanley Burnshaw asked explicitly: “Is Objectivist poetry a programmed movement (such as the Imagists instituted), or is it a rationalization undertaken by writers of similar subjective predilections and tendencies[?] … Is there a copy of the program of the Objectivist group available?” (53).  In his reply to some of Burnshaw’s other questions Zukofsky emphasized the fundamental individuality of the serious writer: “Interpretation differs between individuals and sometimes there are schools of poetry; i.e., there is agreement among individuals. But linguistic usage and the context of related words naturally influence an etiquette of interpretation (common to individuals, and, it has been said, “for an age”–though all kinds of people live in an “age”)” before both dodging and dismissing Burnshaw’s question, claiming: “To those interested in programmed movements “Objectivist” poetry will be a “programmed movement.” The editor was not a pivot, the contributors did not rationalize about him together; out of appreciation for their sincerity of craft and occasional objectification he wrote the program of the February issue of Poetry” and brusquely recommending Burnshaw reread the other prose statements in the issue (56). My suggestion that this is the case is connected to the fact that Zukofsky and others continued to perpetuate the “Objectivist” group name for some time after the appearance of the February 1931 issue of Poetry. The following year, TO, Publishers (a publishing venture founded by Zukofsky, who was employed as the managing editor and the Oppens, who funded it and supervised the production of the books) published An “Objectivists” Anthology, edited by Zukofsky, and several core members of the group formed a publishing collective which they called The Objectivist Press. [Zukofsky attempting to straddle a line …]

On “Objectivists” rather than “Objectivism”

Why ‘Objectivists’ instead of objectivism? In the first place, because this was the usage that its adherents, Zukofsky especially, preferred. [start with replies to the issue in April 1931] By the Spring of 1934, with TO, Publishers having folded and its successor, The Objectivist Press, on the verge of failing without his own 55 Poems manuscript having been printed, Zukofsky published a disavowal in the form of his contributor’s note to a lengthy installment from his The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire published in Westminster Magazine: “Mr. Zukofsky has used the word objectivist but never Objectivism in connection with the work of certain poets. He disclaims leadership of any movement putatively literary or objectionist. The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire is intended to dispel such dispensations.”121Westminster Magazine 23, no. 1 (Spring 1934), “Notes on Contributors”, 6. This was the second of two installments of the work published in Westminster Magazine. The first, published in the Winter 1933 issue, had included the following as its contributor’s note: “MR ZUKOFSKY is the leader of Objectivism in America; his work has appeared in the better American and European magazines.”  Decades later, Zukofsky’s 1968 interview with L.S. Dembo would get off to a rocky start seemingly because Dembo began it by asking about ‘objectivism’ as a movement. Zukofsky’s icy reply was both precise and dismissive: “In the first place, objectivism . . . I never used the word; I used the word “objectivist,” and the only reason for using it was Harriet Monroe’s insistence when I edited the “objectivist” number of Poetry. 122Dembo interview, x, 2.

In large part, this preference for ‘ists’ instead of an ‘ism’ is a function of both the poetics and the epistemology that defined the several poets included under this umbrella. As a group, these poets shared a mutual suspicion of (or at times hostility towards) abstraction, with an avowed preference for particulars.123Nearly all of the writers in Zukofsky’s circle would have heartily approved of most of the advice dispensed in the ‘Language’ section of Pound’s “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste”, including his counsel: “Don’t use such an expression as “dim lands of peace.” It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.” It follows, then, that they would have preferred to think of themselves in a similar vein, a collection of discrete particulars, as distinct practitioners of a particular craft, namely, the art of poetry. While they might in a certain light be regarded as the makers of objects which shared certain formal and physical properties, it is not difficult to understand why Zukofsky bristled at their being regarded as interchangeable representatives of something so flattening as a movement. Thus a poet or a poem might be accurately regarded as “objectivist,” though it would be inaccurate to speak of “objectivism,” as their animating ideas were never fully developed, embraced, or adhered to. Crucially, this preference of usage is not confined to Zukofsky, but was generally shared by the other so-called ‘Objectivists,’ and there was a general and widespread reluctance among these writers, even in interviews conducted through the 1960s and 1970s, to either encourage or identify with any suggestion of ‘objectivism.'124While not everyone involved in the group was as unfailingly precise in their usage [e.g. Williams, Rezi], most other members of the group were similarly scrupulous in their distinction between -ist and -ism.[examples from Oppen & Rakosi]

Furthermore, there was no collaboratively-authored or even mutually subscribed to ‘manifesto,’ despite several opportunities to produce one, and both the name of the group itself and all of the critical statements produced in their early publications were fictions singly invented by Zukofsky. The historical record, in other words, preserves little in the way of a mutually-endorsed or collaborative statements regarding either poetic values or critical aims. There was no “Objectivist” manifesto for other interested readers to adhere to, or rules to obey or disregard, as there had been with Pound’s “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” and as a consequence, there is no record of anyone, apart from Lorine Niedecker, joining the “group” following their initial appearance in 1931. In an era defined by political commitment and the rise of movements, it is notable that there was, quite literally, no “Objectivist” movement available for interested readers or writers to join. In the place of Zukofsky’s original multi-page prospectus for a author-led printing cooperative, consider Reznikoff’s far more modest statement of purpose eventually adopted by the Objectivist Press: ‘The Objectivist Press is an organization of poets who are printing their own work and that of others they think ought to be printed.” This might in fact be accurately spoken of as the only truly collaborative “Objectivist” statement of intention, simultaneously rigorous in its simplicity and accuracy and remarkable for its seemingly deliberate evasion of any loyalty oaths, whether poetic or political.

What should be clear is that the writers were decidedly un-“clubbable” poets, by virtue of both their identity positions (especially their Jewishness and proximity to immigrants) and their own dispositions. As their complex relationship to the social and political organizations which characterized the political left during their lifetimes made clear, nearly all of them struggled to subsume their individual convictions within any larger group affiliations, even those they felt socially or politically necessary.125Zukofsky, while an intellectually committed Marxist, never formally joined the Communist Party, for example, and while both Rakosi and the Oppens did, neither lasted long as members, nor did either of them feel comfortable mixing their political activism and poetic activity.Both George Oppen and Carl Rakosi, they too strongly valued their poetic independence to surrender their voices to party propaganda. A similar ambivalence and outright antipathy towards political parties and large organizations more generally can be clearly seen in both Lorine Niedecker and Basil Bunting’s work. Reznikoff’s case is likewise interesting–as the author of Holocaust and Testimony, he remains one of the 20th century’s most important documentary poets, and was married for much of his adult life to Marie Syrkin, who, as the daughter of Socialist Zionist theorist Nachman Syrkin, was herself the close friend and biographer of Golda Meir and the longtime editor of Jewish Frontier, the leading Labor Zionist publication in the English-speaking world, though he himself remained more or less unaffiliated with any explicitly partisan causes. This is not to say that members of the group did not share a set of political ideals, literary values or critical aims, simply that they made no concerted effort to broadcast a shared viewpoint, or even to clarify their particular interpretation of a Poundian-inspired poetics. This is why Zukofsky, generally precise even at his prickliest and most revisionist, could claim in speaking with L.S. Dembo in 1968 that when Harriet Monroe informed him that “‘You must have a movement.’ I said, “No, some of us are writing to say things simply so that they will affect us as new again.” “Well, give it a name.” Well, there were pre-Raphaelitism, and dadaism, and expressionism, and futurism-I don’t like any of those isms. I mean, as soon as you do that, you start becoming a balloon instead of a person. And it swells and a lot of mad people go chasing it.”126(203) The implicit criticism here, of course, is that Dembo and those of us who would insist on examining or exploring ‘objectivism’ as a movement are faddish and insane. Well, then!

So, if it is inaccurate to speak of ‘objectivism,’ does this mean that there was not a group or that a contemporary sense of a poetic movement is a fiction invented ex post facto by sloppy would-be critic-historians? My answer to this is no, or at least not entirely. Without producing a balloon founded on false assumptions (i.e. “objectivism” as a historically durable, intentionally programmed poetic movement), there are at least two senses in which we can accurately speak of the ‘Objectivists’ as a meaningful constellation of writers with some shared affinities and overlapping poetics.

First and most fundamentally, each of the “Objectivist” writers would have assented to many of basic principles of poetic composition set forth by Ezra Pound over the previous two decades. All were familiar with Pound’s “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste” and F.S. Flint’s “Imagisme,” both published in the March 1913 issue of Poetry magazine,127Pound and Flint’s essays can be read online at the Poetry Foundation’s webiste here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=58900 and here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=58898. and each was broadly committed to the basic principles articulated in those brief prose statements. Consider F.S. Flint on the imagistes:

They had not published a manifesto. They were not a revolutionary school; their only endeavor was to write in accordance with the best tradition, as they found it in the best writers of all time,–in Sappho, Catullus, Villon. … They had only a few rules, drawn up for their satisfaction only … They were: 1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation. 3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.128(199)

Taken alone, it’s possible to read Flint’s description of the imagistes here as fully applicable to Zukofsky’s “Objectivists” as well, and their shared respect for individual particulars and general satisfaction with basic Imagiste poetic principles may help explain the absence of a distinctly “Objectivist” manifesto.[C.f. Zukofsky’s remarks about “Objectivists” from the entire poetic tradition.[/ref] While it is too simple to argue, as some have done, that the “Objectivists” were simply purifiers and renewers of Pound’s original Imagiste movement, it is more or less true that Pound was a largely invisible junction through which the group organized itself.

Second, and most indisputably, there was a cluster of collaboratively undertaken publishing ventures in the late 1920s and early 1930s which were chiefly animated by roughly half a dozen poets. It is in this sense that I use the term “Objectivists” here, and largely by this criteria that I have selected the poets treated on these pages. Though Zukofsky may have felt he had sufficiently disavowed his leadership of any such movement with his authorial statement in Westminster Magazine, the fact remains that he had already at that point used the “Objectivist” title to designate not only the issue of Poetry magazine he had edited and a subsequent anthology, but he had also served as the editor of one publishing venture (TO, Publishers) which could be plausibly read as an acronym for The Objectivists, and been instrumental in organizing another collaborative publishing venture called The Objectivist Press. Futhermore, while The Objectivist Press did not bring out any of Zukofsky’s work while it was a functioning collective in the mid-1930s, the Zukofskys revived the press (in name at least) as late as 1948 to serve as the imprimatur for Louis’ The Test of Poetry. Yes, the “Objectivists” may well have been a contrivance invented largely for PR or publicity-related reasons, but the fact remains that it was not an external artifice completely thrust upon the group; rather, Zukofsky himself had chosen the terminology and group’s name and further chose to perpetuate and seek to capitalize on the name for several years after their first appearance.

The Objectivists initial energy dissipated, the various members of the collaborative went their separate ways (as the depression deepened, many turned to political action and affiliation with the Communist Party, abandoning or sidelining their poetry as they were unwilling to make ideologically-driven aesthetic compromises). In 1936, with encouragement from Ezra Pound, the young and wealthy James Laughlin founded what would become the New Directions publishing company, more or less replacing the Oppens and the Objectivist Press as a publishing outlet for Williams and Pound,129Mary Oppen, in Meaning A Life: “Later, at almost the same moment that George and I terminated To Publishers, James Laughlin founded New Directions. Since then he has continued to publish fine books through the many years, and he deserves the credit for carrying the burden of running a business in the interest of publishing poetry.” (131) and the “Objectivists” more or less vanished until their recovery in the early 60s.


[probably doesn’t fit yet]

TO, Publishers and The Objectivist Press

TO, Publishers was nothing if not an ‘Objectivist’ publishing venture: funded and operated from France by the Oppens, it employed Zukofsky as the managing editor, and in addition to An ‘Objectivists’ Anthology published (or planned to publish) work by Williams, Pound, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, Bunting, Rakosi, and Rexroth.[of these planned volumes, the Press would only print work by Williams and Pound before experiencing financial, import, and distribution difficulties which caused the venture to be abandoned in 1933].

Following the financial failure late in 1932 of TO, Publishers,130Before the Oppens discontinued its operations, TO, Publishers published three works: An “Objectivists” Anthology, Williams’ A Novelette and Other Prose and Pound’s Prolegomena 1: How to Read, Followed by The Spirit of Romance, Part 1, all of which were issued as paperbacks from Le Beausset, France in 1932. The Oppens ran into a number of difficulties that hampered the press’ financial viability, including problems of editorial quality produced by having non-English speaking typesetters, numerous difficulties both importing the books into the United States and then marketing and selling them once they had reached New York City. Zukofsky, while an undeniably gifted editor, was, by his own admission, not a very skilled marketer or salesman. Zukofsky, Williams, Reznikoff, and the Oppens reconvened in New York City, where, after several months of planning, they ultimately decided to form a publishing cooperative called The Objectivist Press.131The genesis for The Objectivist Press was a proposal, circulated by Zukofsky in May 1933, regarding the formation of a writer’s collaborative, which Zukofsky wanted to call Writers Extant [WE]. Williams found the idea too complicated, and Zukofsky, Williams, Reznikoff, and the Oppens discussed and revised Zukofsky’s prospectus for a writer’s collaborative and various names for it between May and October 1933, when they ultimately settled on The Objectivist Press and Reznikoff’s very simple editorial statement, which they published on their books’ dust jackets: “The Objectivist Press is an organization of writers who are publishing their work and that of other writers whose work they think ought to be read.” While the press began with a lengthy and ambitious list of works they intended to publish, the press ultimately issued just five books in 1934: Williams’ Collected Poems 1921-1931; Oppen’s Discrete Series; and three works by Reznikoff: Jerusalem the GoldenTestimony; and In Memoriam: 1933, before the collective began to deteriorate.132Signs of trouble for the press were visible almost immediately. Zukofsky wrote to Pound about exhaustion and the possibility of his leaving the press as early as April 12, 1934: “have been sick myself tho working on a C.W. A. job, now transferred to Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, N.Y.C.–6 hrs of continual insult to the intelligence, 2 hrs travel, 1 hr. “lunch.” 9 hrs a day, & then 1-3 hrs of the Obj. Press when I get home. Municipal salary $19 a week. Other salary $0. Which leaves very little time for writing, but I’ve done some. … May have to resign Sec’y of Obj. Press if burden of work continues, & the effort spent on the press does not repay in the way of enough sales allowing us to continue. It’s a ha-a-rd job, & besides there may be necessity for direct action in another field (in add. to poetry)–and aside from publishing–I’m afraid there is now only I’m holding back. You were right last summer about staying clear of becoming an office boy–besides peeple dun’t appreciate.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 156-157). By early 1935, the group had dissolved: Zukofsky had resigned his unpaid position as editor,the Oppens had quit poetry to devote their energies to direct political action, and Williams turned to publishing his work elsewhere, first with Ronald Lane Latimer’s Alcestis Press, and then beginning in 1938, with James Laughlin’s New Directions Press.133The relationship between Williams, Zukofsky, and the Oppens appears to have been strained by late 1934, as a letter from Williams to Zukofsky in March 1935 indicates both that Williams hadn’t heard from Zukofsky for roughly 6 months and that Williams had heard that Zukofsky and the Oppens had had a falling out (The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 212). Zukofsky writes to Pound November 14, 1934 asking about the possibility of Faber & Faber printing his poem “Mantis,” and writes to Pound on February 17, 1935 asking explicitly for help in getting his 55 Poems manuscript published in England with Faber & Faber, which I take as a clear sign that the Objectivist Press had failed by this point: “You can, if it won’t hurt your own name, try and get me published with Faber & Faber. Serly off to Europe with my final arrangement and additions to 55 Poems–a most commendable typscript for you to look at. Time fucks it, and if I keep my MSS. in my drawer or my drawers, I might as well shut up altogether. … If you consent, think it opportune etc, to try my 55 on Faber & Faber, you need not worry about an introduction–I don’t want it–you can write a blurb for the dust-proof jacket if it jets out of you. Noo Yok at a standstill. Haven’t heart from Bill Willyums in moneths.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 160-161). A May 11, 1935 letter to Pound is perhaps Zukofsky’s most explicit statement on what he took as the lessons of the failure of his publishing efforts: “But you needn’t tell me that “All good books are Blocked by the present fahrty system”-why ‘n hell do you think I asked your aid? Between the New Masses crowd who can’t get the distinction that yr. poetry is one thing & yr. economics another, & yr. unwillingness to even look at my work to see what it says because I won’t embrace Social Credit, then last 3 years-I’ve not only lost whatever chance I might have had with commercial publishers, but have ostracized myself completely. I ain’t weeping about it-I’m just seeing by my own lights. … I’ve sacrificed a good deal of my time with To, Objectivist Press, corresponding with 152 “poets” etc. to get up an issue of Poetry, an anthology etc., & the good things which resulted were their own cheque. However, I don’t care to do it again. I’ve even stopped seeing “close friends” who’ve envied my station-to put an end to the bad taste of it all. For example, it is amusing & to a slight degree cheering that The Rocking Horse 5 years after my advent at the Univ. of Wis. has got round to speaking about E.P., W.C.W. etc. as if they were not exactly taboo-but I’m not going to commend the kids or take up correspondence with ’em to keep you & Bill “in shape” as you say. It won’t mean anything to you 1 yr. from now-& it won’t get me anywhere.” (The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 120). Reznikoff, the last of the collective’s founding members and the sole owner of a printing press which he operated from the basement of his apartment building, retained the press’ copyright, publishing his collection Separate Way in 1936 under the imprint, well after the time that it had ceased to operate as a cooperative. The imprint remained dormant until Louis and Celia Zukofsky requested its use from Reznikoff for their private publication of Louis’ A Test of Poetry in 1948. While the Zukofskys sent out correspondence for a short time thereafter using The Objectivist Press letterhead with their home address as its current location, the imprint was never again used for future book publications.134See Mark Scroggins’ “The Objectivists and their Publications.

The Return and Recovery of Some “Objectivists”

After more than 25 years of near total silence, both intentional135In the case of Oppen, Rakosi, and Bunting, each of whom stopped writing and publishing poetry for long stretches. and due to an inability to find regular publishers for their work,136In the case of Zukofsky, Niedecker, and Reznikoff. the 1960s saw a surge of publishing activity from former “Objectivists,” beginning with the Oppens return to the United States from Mexico in 1959 and George’s resumption of writing and publishing poems in the late 1950s-early 1960s.137Oppen published his first post-silence poems, fittingly, in Poetry magazine (the January 1960 issue contained five poems, his first publications in more than 25 years). His The Materials and Charles Reznikoff’s By the Waters of Manhattan were jointly published in 1962 by New Directions in partnership with George’s sister June Degnan Oppen, the publisher of The San Francisco Review. Williams, the only member of the group to have published his writing continuously through the 1940s and 1950s, died in March of 1963, preventing him from seeing this upsurge in publication during the 1960s, but the decade saw major works published by Oppen, Reznikoff, Zukofsky, Bunting, Rakosi, and Niedecker.138Oppen published The Materials in 1962, This in Which in 1965, and Of Being Numerous in 1968, all with New Directions. Of Being Numerous won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1969. Reznikoff published By the Waters of Manhatan: Selected Verse in 1962 and Testimony, the United States, 1885-1890, the first volume of his long series of documentary poetry taken from the American legal record, in 1965, both with New Directions. After Testimony failed to sell well, New Directions dropped Reznikoff, and he returned to printing his work privately, self-publishing By the Well of Living and Seeing, and the Fifth Book of the Macabbees in 1969 before John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press began publishing his work in 1974. Zukofsky published four books with small presses between 1962 and 1964; editions containing the two halves of All, his collected short poems, were published in the United States and England between 1965 and 1967; his “A” 1-12 was published in London in 1966 and by Doubleday in New York in 1967; and both “A” 13-21 and his and Celia’s translations of Catullus were published in both London and New York in 1969. Bunting published Loquitur and his First Book of Odes with Stuart and Deidre Montgomery’s London-based Fulcrum Press in 1965, and his autobiographical long poem Briggflatts appeared to great acclaim, first in Poetry magazine in January 1966, and later that year in book form from Fulcrum. Fulcrum also published the first edition of his Collected Poems in 1968. Rakosi published Amulet, his first book in more than 25 years, with New Directions in 1967. Niedecker published My Friend Tree in 1961, but this was a small book with very limited distribution. In 1968, however, Niedecker published both her collection North Central with Stuart and Deidre Montgomery’s Fulcrum Press and her T & G: The Collected Poems (1936-1966) through Jonathan Williams’s Jargon Society. Following their various returns to print in the 1960s, each of these writers continued to write and publish poetry until their deaths.

1930s NEXUS:

To draw a network of the Objectivist ‘nexus’ as it existed in the late 20s-early 30s, one might imagine Pound and Williams as something like sibling branches.139A volume of selected Pound-Williams letters containing roughly 30 percent of the extant correspondence was edited by Hugh Witemeyer and published by New Directions in 1996. Under Pound there would be two thick nodes, connecting him as major influence upon both Zukofsky and Basil Bunting. A softer line might be drawn between Pound and both Rakosi and Reznikoff–each of whom admired and appreciated Pound’s prose on poetics and the early Cantos, and to a lesser extent to Oppen, who was much more profoundly influenced by Reznikoff and to a lesser extent, by Williams. A strong line would be drawn of course between Zukofsky and Niedecker, and a thinner, but still significant one between Niedecker and Bunting. As the intellectual, editorial, and in many respects energetic center of the group, Zukofsky would have thick connections drawn between himself and Pound (initially as something like an admiring pupil and ersatz disciple, though their relation would deteriorate over time, showing signs of strain almost immediately following Zukofsky’s return from his trip to visit Pound in Rapallo in 1933), and more of an editorial/younger peer relation between himself and Williams (though they were separated by nearly 20 years in age, Williams came to trust and admire Zukofsky as both a superb editor and a good friend), Bunting, Oppen, Rakosi, and of course, Niedecker. Bunting lived briefly in New York with his wife Marian Culver following their marriage on Long Island in July 1930, and while in New York, Bunting developed friendships with both Williams and Zukofsky before returning to live in Rapallo in February 1931 (the Oppens were in France at this time, and so they did not meet in person until the Oppens visited Rapallo some time in 1932). Williams, Reznikoff, Zukofsky, and the Oppens had their own thickly knotted bundle of connections, as they all met fairly regularly in New York City in the late 1920s and early-mid 1930s. The Oppens both admired Reznikoff enormously, but apart from these connections previously described, there would have been thin to nonexistent connections between any of the other members of the group, even as late as late-autumn of 1933, when Niedecker made her first trip to visit Zukofsky in New York City and met Reznikoff and the Oppens. At the time of the publication of An “Objectivists” Anthology in 1932, for example Niedecker was not yet known to any member of the group apart from Zukofsky, and Rakosi and Bunting would have been the most peripheral members of the group, in no small part because of their geographic distance (Rakosi was teaching high school English and enrolled in medical school in Texas during these years, and apart from roughly six months in New York City in 1930 and early 1931, Bunting spent the years between 1929 and 1936 living at Rapallo and on the Canary Islands).

What such a visualization would immediately make apparent is the way in which the main arteries of the Objectivist nexus traverse not just through Zukofsky, but also through Ezra Pound. It was Pound who served as a locus (through letters) of ideas, encouragement, and not-infrequent provocation for Zukofsky, Bunting, and Williams.140Williams he knew from their days together at Penn, Bunting he knew as a co-dweller at Rapallo, and Zukofsky had written him with admiration for both his prose statements and more importantly, the poetic accomplishments of his early Cantos.


LZ – Williams [via Pound, in person in NYC staring April 1, 1928]. Williams invites Zukofsky to edit his writing almost immediately, beginning with The Descent of Winter, which Zukofsky produced from Williams’ “Sacred and Profane” notebook, and which was published in the fourth issue of The Exile. Zukofsky also wrote about Williams’ formal ambitions in his “American Poetry 1920-1930” essay published in the January 1931 issue of Symposium.

LZ – Bunting [via Pound, Bunting sent Zuk a card upon his arrival in New York in 1930 as a newlywed. Bunting met Williams in NYC as well. They also spent time together in Rapallo during Zukofsky’s trip to Europe in 1933].

Bunting and Pound met by chance in a Parisian cafe in the 20s, Bunting writes letter of introduction (at Pound’s urging) to LZ in July 1930, just before LZ goes to Madison for the academic year. LZ returned to NYC for the holidays just before the Objectivist issue appeared, and had Christmas dinner with Bunting’s wife Marian.

LZ – Rakosi [via Pound’s introduction, through letters [starting winter 1930] until 1935, when Rakosi moved to NYC and they were friends who met socially on a regular basis until 1939-1940, when both men married and Rakosi and his wife left NYC for his career. Their correspondence is at UT-Austin: http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/fasearch/findingAid.cfm?kw=rakosi&x=0&y=0&eadid=00138&showrequest=1

LZ – Oppen. Met in NYC in 1929 at a party. Story told by Mary Oppen in Meaning A Life: 

Once, invited to a party to which we had to walk the length of Manhattan because we had no money, we paused at a bookshop and leafed through more books of poetry than we had ever found in one place before. This was the Gotham Book Mart, and George was reading Pound’s Exile 3, which had the first section of “Poem beginning ‘The,'” by Louis Zukofsky. At the part Mary Wright said to George, “Oh, you are a poet, you must meet our friend Zukofsky.”

George said, “He wrote ‘Poem beginning “The.”‘”

Mary said, “You are the only one in the world who knows it.”

Louis introduced us to Charles Reznikoff’s poetry, and then Reznikoff himself, whom we returned to visit often. Charles’ job was writing definitions for a law-book company … at the Brooklyn end of Manhattan Bridge, and often we met Charles after work to go for a walk with him. Along the way we stopped to eat; Charles was a connoisseur of cafeterias, and we ate the best muffins in town at own cafeteria, walked further to find the best chicken, and ate Beecake at the Automat. Or we met Charles at the President Cafeteria near Grand Central Station, and after supper we walked as far as George and I felt like walking. … Charles walked all the way home most evenings. We went to his apartment on Friday evenings—I don’t remember that he invited us, maybe he found us knocking at his door week after week and took us in.141Meaning a Life, 85

The Oppens met Reznikoff and Williams through Zukofsky at this time. In April, Oppen turned twenty one, and received an inheritance. In the Spring, they drove to Quebec with Zukofsky and Jerry Reisman. Of Zukofsky, Mary wrote:

Louis was a great teacher has well—George has said many times, “I can never repay my debt to Zukofsky, he taught me everything.”

Louis, four years older than George, was a prodigy and a remarkable friend. We spent so much time together that we very nearly lived together. When Louis came to our apartment on Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, he stayed late talking endlessly about poetry or any of the topics which young people discuss, and we laughed and teased. We loved each other. …

Remembering that very young people, when they trust each other, throw away all guards to enter into each other’s lives, I can try to recreate the relationship we had with Louis. We were all looking for an identity different from our families’ identities, and we found strength in bonds of love and friendship such as we had with Louis, which gave our lives shape and intensity. Reaching for clarity of vision, we gave each other freely whatever the other could take from us, and this giving was our friendship. …

Louis was at the center of a considerable circle, and we met and talked and visited within this group. Mary and Russel Wright and Louis remained our friends for many years; the others, if we met again, would no doubt interest us, but Louis was the best friend we had, and we both miss his friendship.142Meaning a Life, 91, 93-94.

LZ – Reznikoff [Seamus Cooney suggests that LZ and Rezi first met at “one of the almost-weekly dinners of the Menorah group.”143The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1975, 385. The first letter from Reznikoff to Zukofsky at Austin is dated 1928 (haven’t seen but would like to)]. Reznikoff’s later recollection: “A Note on the Objectivist Press

Louis Zukofsky and I met, about 1930, in New York. He had beeprinted by Pound and was to be published in Pound’s Active Anthology. But we agree that it was hopeless to try to get a publisher in those days for any books of verse we had ready and decided to organize a publishing firm: each writer to pay for his own book. Almost all, if not all, the writers we included as possible members of the group were acquaintances of Zukofsky, and through him I met George Oppeand William Carlos Williams. We called our firm The Objectivist Press, not because—as far as I was concerned—we had any new doctrine to offer: the name was suggested by Pound’s stress on “objectivity” in his correspondence as printed in Poetry and we—at least Zukofsky and I—heartily agreed with his do”s and “don’t“s.

Our first book of verse was Williams: Collected Poems 1921-1931, paid for in part by Wiliams. Its publication was suggested and urged by Zukofsky. Williams then was fairly well-known. He had received by that time, I think, a Dial aware of a thousand or more dollars. But his many poems, other than those printed in magazines, or anthologies like Harriet Monroe’s, were only on mimeographed sheets. Our publication was then also, I believe, the first book of verse by Williams. To my surprise, it received an enthusiastic review on the second page of the New York Times Literary Supplement. Zukofsky, incidentally, never had the money at that time to get out a book of his own. The Objectivist Press also published a volume by George Oppen and two or three by before before expired.144Charles Reznikoff Papers, UCSD Special Collections, Box 4, Folder 3.

LZ bio states that LZ knew Rezi somehow prior to meeting WCW. Sent WCW Rezi poems in May 1929, and to EP in November 1929.

LZ – Niedecker [through letters beginning Sept/Oct 1931, met in person several times, first in late fall 1933, when she lived with him until early 1934. She returned in April 1934 and again in 1935 (when she fell pregnant). Jerry Reisman and LZ visited LN in September 1936. LZ met Celia in January 1934 (while Niedecker was staying with him), they were dating seriously by 1937, and married August 20, 1939 in Wilmington, Delaware, with Niedecker there on the day they married, though not probably at the wedding?]

LZ introduced Niedecker to Ian Hamilton Finlay, via Gael Turnbull.

LZ: “The objectivist, then, is one person, not a group, and as I define him he is interested in living with the things as they exist, and as a ‘wordsman,’ he is a craftsman who puts words together into an object.”

Pound’s active anthology includes work by Williams, Oppen, Bunting and Pound.

Pound’s strongest links: Williams, Zukofsky, Bunting, and to a lesser extent Rakosi (who he published in Exile) and Oppen & Reznikoff (both of whom Zukofsky championed–and of the two, Oppen was the only one Pound engaged with meaningfully in that period–including him in his Active Anthology and writing the preface to his Discrete Series).

Bunting’s strongest links: with Pound and Zukofsky. Met Williams in NYC in 1930-31, and the Oppens in Rapallo.

Zukofsky’s strongest links: with Pound, Williams, Oppen, Reznikoff, Bunting, Rakosi and Niedecker. The only one to be connected to each other node.

Williams’ strongest links: with Pound and Zukofsky, and via the publishing venture with Reznikoff and Oppen

Oppens’ strongest links: with Zukofsky, Reznikoff, and Williams, followed by Pound [met in Europe before Zukofsky–also met Bunting]. In Meaning a Life:

Before going to Paris we went to Rapallo to visit Ezra Pound. We took rooms on the promenade, at a distance from Pound’s pension where he lived with Dorothy. Across the harbor lived Marian Bunting with Basil and their two children. Dorothy invited us to the tea-dance after our arrival; Pound asked me to dance, and gravely, we danced. Dorothy always seemed diffident, reserved and remote. I met her always in the pension living or dining room, while George met Pound upstairs in his study; or we both walked with Pound on the promenade.

Marian was lonely, and she seized on me, another American woman, to share her loneliness and her problems, but I was too much younger than Marian to do more than listen. Her family insisted she leave Bunting, give up her poet, but she found it hard to obey them. We rented bicycles together, took them on the bus to the top of the mountains behind Rapallo and came down on them—a breathtaking trip through the forests of cork, chestnut and pine trees.145Meaning a Life, 132.

Met LN in NYC in 1933/4 during her visits to NYC. Mary Oppen in Meaning a Life: 

We invited her to dinner, and after waiting for her until long after dinner-time, we ate and were ready for bed when a timid knock at the door announced Lorine. “What happened to you?” we asked.

“I got on the subway, and I didn’t know where to get off, so I rode to the end of the line and back.”

“Why didn’t you ask someone?”

“I didn’t see anyone to ask.”

New York was overwhelming, and she was alone, a tiny, timid small-town girl. She escaped the city and returned to Wisconsin. Years later we began to see her poems, poems which described her life; she chose a way of hard physical work, and her poetry emerged from a tiny life. From Wisconsin came perfect small gems of poetry written out of her survival, from the crevices of her life, that seeped out into poems.146Meaning a Life, 145.

Reznikoff’s strongest links: ??? participated in the publishing venture with Williams, Zukofsky, and Oppen and admired Pound’s prose statements about poetics

Rakosi’s strongest links: with Zukofsky and to a much lesser extent, with Pound (his time in NYC just straddled the Objectivist heyday–he was there for several months in 1925, and didn’t return until 1935–when he befriended Zukofsky, but the others were disbanding)

Niedecker’s strongest links: with Zukofsky. Met Reznikoff and the Oppens in 1933/34, but while they were friendly, none of them formed a meaningful bond or corresponded at any length. Zukofsky visited with Jerry Reisman in 1937?–proposed Bunting going into business with her father, but nothing came of it.[/ref]

1940s-50s nexus: Zukofsky and Niedecker. Bunting, Williams, Pound, Zukofsky. No Rakosi, Oppen, Reznikoff connection to speak of.

1960s nexus: Williams dead. Pound (mostly) silent. Zukofsky increasingly alienating/alienated.

Oppen forms the core of phase 3 ‘Objectivists’–through both his attraction to younger writers and access to publication–his sister’s partnership with New Directions.

Oppens’ strongest links: to Reznikoff (debt and respect) and Rakosi (friendship). Lots of other friendships with younger writers, who see Oppens as models for life & art.

Bunting’s strongest links: to Niedecker (mostly through shared affection, though he visits her in Wisconsin with his daughters in mid-60s, the only person besides Zukofsky to go to Wisconsin to see her) + younger English poets and Allen Ginsberg).

Reznikoff’s strongest links: to Oppen, though friendly with Rakosi

Rakosi’s strongest links: to Oppen–he and his wife move to SF after retirement, he writes Old Poet’s Tale about Oppen and his death. Strong outspoken antipathy towards Zukofsky and Pound–is also able to produce documentary evidence challenging Zukofsky and critical reappraisal of early ‘Objectivist’ history, though has imperfect sense of the NYC cluster/friendships, as he wasn’t there for most of the time (his time in NYC just straddled the Objectivist time–he was there for several months in 1925, and didn’t return until 1935–when he befriended Zukofsky, but the others were disbanding)

Niedecker’s strongest links: to Zukofsky and to Bunting.Had fond relations with Bunting, but they didn’t meet in person until 1967. She also met Rakosi around this time, once, and exchanged a couple of letters with both men. Connections with Cid Corman, Jonathan Williams, local friends (like Gail and Bonnie Roub) and several poet/publishers in England also important. 50s connection w/ Edward Dahlberg–strange but significant.

References   [ + ]

1. Oppen and Rakosi were both, briefly, members of the Communist Party of the United States of America. Each joined while living in New York City in the 1930s, but by the end of the decade, neither was still an active member of the party, though both remained committed to leftist political ideas throughout their lives. Zukofsky did not join the Communist Party, though he appears to have applied for membership in 1925, when his close friend Whittaker Chambers began to ingratiate himself with the party’s New York leadership. Zukofsky was sincere in his Marxist orientation, however, and this orientation remained prominent in his work and private letters through the late 1930s. Not only does Zukofsky’s poetry reflect his close attention to the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, Zukofsky spent several months in 1934 and 1935 preparing A Worker’s Anthology (though never published, many of the poems he gathered for this manuscript made their way into his A Test of Poetry), joined the anti-fascist (and Communist-affiliated) League of American Writers in 1935, and worked briefly that same year as an unpaid poetry editor for the prominent Communist-affiliated literary magazine New Masses. He and Bunting both argued politics with the fascist-sympathizing Pound in their letters throughout the 30s, with Zukofsky taking up more Marxist-Leninist positions and Bunting more anarcho-socialist ones. In a July 1938 letter to Pound, Zukofsky wrote: “Can’t guess what Kulchah is about, but if you want to dedicate yr. book to a communist (me) and a British-conservative-antifascist-imperialist (Basil), I won’t sue you for libel and I suppose you know Basil. So dedicate” (Pound/Zukofsky, 195). Zukofsky’s multi-hybrid classification for Bunting’s politics is a good sign of the difficulty even his closest friends experienced in classifying his political views. Bunting attended a Quaker secondary school and was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the first World War and was, like his father, a dues-paying Fabian Socialist for several years as a young adult. His mature political views, while largely uncategorizable, resemble something of a fusion between socialism and anarchism, though he was perhaps the most suspicious of ideology of the whole group, arguing strenuously for the separation of literature from both political and economic motives and ends. Williams’ politics might be best described as democratic populist, and Niedecker was sympathetic to both the strain of Progressivism led by Wisconsin politician Robert La Follette and Henry Wallace as well as the socialism of William Morris. For more on Niedecker’s politics, see: http://steelwagstaff.info/lorine-niedecker-and-the-99/. Reznikoff’s wife Marie Syrkin, as the daughter of two prominent socialist Zionists and a close friend of Golda Meir’s, was the more overtly political partner in their marriage, but Reznikoff’s writing is profoundly sympathetic to human suffering and what we would today refer to as social justice concerns.
2. Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, and Rakosi
3. Apart from a stint at graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin during the 1930-1931 academic year and a trip to visit Pound and other artistic friends in Europe in 1933, Zukofsky spent the entirety of these years in New York City. Reznikoff lived in New York City for his entire life, apart from a year at journalism school in Missouri (the 1910-1911 academic year), a cross-country trip selling hats for his parents’ business and extended stay in Los Angeles from April-June of 1931, and a two year stint working in Hollywood for his friend Al Lewin (from March 1937 through June 1939). The Oppens arrived in New York City in 1928, living briefly in Greenwich Village before taking a room at the Madison Square Hotel (on the corner of Madison Avenue and 26th Street, near the north east corner of Madison Square Park) for the rest of the winter. They lived briefly with Ted and Kate Hecht on Staten Island in the spring, before renting a small house in New Rochelle harbor, in George’s birth city. They returned to San Francisco at the end of the summer in 1929, and lived a rented house in Belvedere for a year before leaving for France and the end of summer in 1930, around the same time that Zukofsky left New York for Madison. The Oppens arrived in Le Havre, and stayed in France until early in 1933, when they left Paris to return to New York, taking an apartment in Brooklyn Heights near Zukofsky. The Oppens lived in New York from 1933 until the early 1940s, when they moved to Detroit.  Williams and his wife Flossie made their home at 9 Ridge Road in Rutherford, New Jersey, some 25 miles northwest of Manhattan, and Williams made frequent visits to the city. Carl Rakosi lived in New York City on two occasions, from 1924 to 1925, and again from 1935 to 1940. Bunting lived in New York City for the last half of 1930: he and his first wife, Marian Culver, were married on Long Island on July 9, 1930 and lived in Brooklyn Heights through January 1931, when Bunting’s six-month visa expired and the couple returned to Rapallo, Italy. Niedecker came to New York City for the first time in late 1933, and would spend several months in the city, living with Zukofsky, over the next several years.
4. Zukofsky’s parents immigrated from what is now Lithuania, Reznikoff’s parents immigrated from Russia, Rakosi was born in Germany and immigrated from Hungary when he was six years old, and Williams’ parents had immigrated from Puerto Rico, though his father had been born in England.
5. Zukofsky earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia University in June 1924, writing his thesis on the writings of the historian Henry Adams. In February 1946, he began a teaching position as an English instructor at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now operating as the New York University Tandon School of Engineering), where he taught until his retirement in May 1965Reznikoff attended journalism school for a year at the University of Missouri and considered pursuing a Ph.D. in history before enrolling in law school, earning his LLB from New York University in 1915 and being admitted to the bar the following year. Reznikoff took a few postgraduate courses in law, but never earned an advanced degree. Oppen dropped out of Oregon State Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) after he was suspended and Mary was expelled from school for their relationship. Neither George or Mary earned university degrees. Williams attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he befriended classmates Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle [H.D.], graduating in 1906 and filling internships at two New York hospitals and pursuing advanced study in pediatrics in Leipzig, Germany. Rakosi attended the University of Chicago for a year before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1924 and a master’s degree in industrial psychology in 1925. Rakosi attended a wide range of graduate programs in the 1920s and 1930s, briefly enrolling in both the Ph.D. program in English literature and law school at the University of Texas at Austin and medical school at the University of Texas Medical Department in Galveston but leaving each program before earning a degree. After choosing a career as a social worker, Rakosi attended the Graduate School of Social Work at Tulane University in New Orleans and eventually earned his master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. Between 1952 and 1954, he would complete course work in the Social Work Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota, but he never completed the doctorate. Bunting was enrolled at the London School of Economic from October 1919 to April 1923, but was very casual in his studies and left without earning a degree. Niedecker attended Beloit College for two years (from 1922-1924), but family financial pressures forced her to leave without completing her degree.
6. The two exceptions were Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey on September 17, 1883, and Reznikoff, born in New York City on August 31, 1894.
7. Bunting was born on March 1, 1900 in Scotswood-on-Tyne, a western suburb of Newcastle, England.
8. Oppen was born on April 24, 1908 in New Rochelle, New York.
9. Niedecker was born on May 12, 1903 on Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
10. Rakosi was born on November 6, 1903 in Berlin, Germany.
11. Zukofsky was born on January 23, 1904 in New York City.
12. William Carlos Williams died March 4, 1963, aged 79; Lorine Niedecker died December 31, 1970, aged 67; Charles Reznikoff died January 22, 1976, aged 81; Louis Zukofsky died May 12, 1978, aged 74; George Oppen died July 7, 1984, aged 76; Basil Bunting died April 17, 1985, aged 85; Carl Rakosi died June 25, 2004, aged 100. For comparison, Ezra Pound was born on October 30, 1885 in Hailey, Idaho and died on November 1, 1972 in Venice, Italy, aged 87.
13. Jenny Penberthy and other attentive readers of Niedecker’s poetry have long noted her intellectual and poetic independence, including surrealist tendencies, of which Zukofsky did not approve, in both her earliest and latest poetry. See Penberthy in How2 and both Ruth Jennison and Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ contributions to Radical Vernacular (pp. 131-179).
14. That letter reads, in full: “Dear Miss Monroe, Mr. Zukofsky encourages me to send some of my poems to you to be considered for “Poetry”. Very truly yours, Lorine Niedecker.” Niedecker to Harriet Monroe in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse Records 1895-1961, Box 18, Folder 2, University of Chicago Special Collections.
15. Niedecker and Zukofsky conducted one of the deepest, most fruitful, and longest lasting epistolary friendships among writers of which I know. They destroyed much of their correspondence, but a significant portion of the surviving letters from Niedecker were collected and edited by Jenny Penberthy in Niedecker and the Correspondence with Zukofsky 1931–1970, published in 1993 by Cambridge University Press. Fragments of Zukofsky’s side of the correspondence are held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
16. Quoted in Bird, 71
17. McAlmon and Williams were joint publishers of Contact, a cheaply-produced little magazine which appeared in four issues between December 1920 and the summer of 1921, when McAlmon left for Paris. In June 1923, Williams published a fifth and final issue of Contact with Monroe Wheeler. The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). After moving to Paris, McAlmon founded the Contact Publishing Company and published important modernist writing under the Contact Editions imprint, including books by his wife Bryher (Annie Ellerman), Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Williams and himself. In 1932, Williams revived Contact, and while McAlmon was listed as an “associate editor” on the masthead and contributed to the magazine, his involvement in the actual editing and publishing of the second run of the magazine was nil. Contact‘s second run lasted for just three issues, all of which were published in 1932 (February, May, and October), and the magazine folded when Williams resigned as an editor and his co-editor Nathanael West left to pursue a screenwriting career in Hollywood. Scans of much of the second run of Contact can be viewed here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run). In the early 30s, Rexroth planned to found a press with his friends Milton Merlin and Joseph Rabinowitch. As they conceived it, the RMR Press (the initial letters of their last names) would publish a series of pamphlets and short books, with a special emphasis on poetry. Zukofsky, Pound, and Williams all wrote to Rexroth in support of the venture, offering selections of their own work for consideration and providing extensive lists of authors they felt might be interested in being included in the series. Zukofsky named Reznikoff, Oppen, Bunting, Rene Taupin, Whittaker Chambers, and Harry Roskolenko; and Pound recommended Rexroth approach Wyndham Lewis, Man Ray, Hilaire Hiler, Robert McAlmon, and Ford Madox Ford. Despite the several recommendations, RMR Press never advanced beyond the planning stage. For more background on RMR, see A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, pp. 65, 75-76.
18. Zukofsky’s “Program: “Objectivists” 1931.” can be read on the website of the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59515
19. This essay, “Sincerity and Objectification: With Special Reference to the Work of Charles Reznikoff,” can be read on the website of the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59516
20. The full contents of the issue, including a table of contents and full list of contributors, are accessible on the Poetry Foundation’s website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/detail/70538.
21. Monroe’s editorial can be read online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=59518
22. Poetry (March 1931), 333.
23. Monroe concluded the correspondence by printing a postcard from Ezra Pound which claimed that “this is a number I can show to my Friends. If you can do another eleven as lively you will put the mag. on its feet,” followed by her own humorous riposte: “Alas, we fear that would put it on its uppers! [teeth]” (58). The full exchange of correspondence published by Monroe in the April 1931 issue can be found online on the Poetry Foundation’s website: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=38&issue=1&page=65.
24. Profile, 111.
25. See: http://library.brown.edu/cds/mjp/pdf/smallmagazines.pdf#page=13
26. Pound/Zukofsky, 68.
27. In June 1923, Williams published a fifth and final issue of Contact with Monroe Wheeler. The initial run of Contact can be read here: (pdf). For more on McAlmon and Williams’ involvement with Contact, see Paul Mariani’s William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked, pp. 174-186 (the first run), and pp. 319-339 (the second run).
28. For a good description of Bryher/Ellerman’s and McAlmon’s relationship, see Shari Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank: Paris 1900-1940, especially pp. 357-362.
29. Zukofsky offers a gloss on the poem in a December 14, 1931 letter to Ezra Pound: “Jerce ‘opkins, again? That’s funny!! Napa—a kind of weed growing in Napa, Calif. I don’t know why Persephone’s husband, romanized, shdn’t be on the west coast now. I don’t know that Napa has a university, but it might as well have. The literal meaning of this famous epigram was the bare statement in a letter of Roger Kaigh [a pseudonym for Kaplan] to Mr. L.Z—D. (Dorothy his spouse, who was dispensing pensions to old folk) is in Napa trailing the sterilized. I added the title & lower-cased napa—which word you can find in Webster’s international. I looked it up after I myself <had> begun to doubt the meaning of the poem. The allegorical meaning is that L.Z. in Wisconsin was Pluto in hell following a lot of emasculated peripatetics (tho’ it is even doubtful these walked or were ever unemasculated). The anagogical meaning is that even evil (Dis) implies redemption” (Pound/Zukofsky, 120-121).
30. For more on Roger Kaigh/Irving Kaplan, see Andrew Crozier’s “Paper Bunting” in Sagetrieb 14:3 (Winter 1995), 45-75.
31. Chambers testified before HUAC in 1948 that while beginning to look for government work, he had been referred to Kaplan, his old college friend, and spent an evening with him in Philadelphia, and that within a matter of days Kaplan had arranged a position for Chambers with the federal government. Chambers began work as a “Report Editor” on the National Research Project in October 1937 and was furloughed in February 1938, following which time he found literary translation work through his old college friend Meyer Schapiro.
32. The 1940 census lists the Kaplans as living at 5315 Edmunds Place in Washington, D.C. and records Kaplan as making $5400 a year as an economist for the Federal Works Administration.
33. Bentley accused him of being a member of the Silvermaster spy group and paying dues to the Perlo group. More context for Bentley’s accusations can be found in “The Shameful Years,” a HUAC report issued in December 1951. Kaplan’s testimony before HUAC in 1952 can be read here. It concludes with Congressman Donald Jackson, who had been appointed to the committee in 1950 following Richard Nixon’s election to the U.S. Senate, stating that he was “personally convinced that [Kaplan] was a Communist and that he undoubtedly is a Communist today.”
34. This letter which was among a number of letters opposed to U.S. involvement in South Vietnam which Morse submitted to the Congressional Record in 1964 and can be read in full at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CRECB-1964-pt9/pdf/GPO-CRECB-1964-pt9-10.pdf#page=40.
35. See The Correspondence of WIlliams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 146.
36. The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1, 401.
37. According to Barry Ahearn, Macleod and Zukofsky were joined by Robert Goffin and Sheamus O’Sheal in addressing the questions “What has American poetry contributed to the democratic tradition? What is the American poet’s responsibility in the present war?” (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 300-301).
38. Yale has letters from Williams and Zukofsky, plus letters from Marty Rosenblum and Tom Sharp.
39. For those interested to better understand the nature of Rexroth and Zukofsky’s relationship, significant portions of their correspondence have been published. Mark Scroggins presents two long letters from Rexroth to Zukofsky in the early 1930s detailing his philosophical and poetic stances and his disagreements with Zukofsky’s positions in a special Rexroth centenary issue of the Chicago Review in 2006: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25742335, and several long letters from Zukofsky to Rexroth can be found in the edition of Zukofsky’s selected letters edited by Barry Ahearn and published on Z-Site: http://www.z-site.net/selected-letters-of-louis-zukofsky/ (see pp. 46-62; 64-72; 138-144; 186-200).
40. In Meaning a Life, Mary Oppen wrote: “As our year in Belvedere drew to a close and we were preparing to take ship for France, Kenneth Rexroth paid us visit. He had recently come from Chicago, and he probably looked us up because he was in correspondence with Louis; it was but a brief encounter” (106).
41. For a good account of Rexroth’s association with Zukofsky, Oppen, and Rakosi in the 1930s, see A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 70-76.
42. After reading Rexroth’s The Phoenix and the Tortoise, Williams would write to James Laughlin in November 1944: “Rexroth (King Red) has finally emerged into something very firm and perceptive—hard to say how good he is now (and how bad I found him formerly) It takes everything a man has to be a good artist and then he only succeeds by luck sometimes. … [T]here is—as there must be—a genius of the Amerian language. I mean not a human genius but an abstract of the language we speak which must be realized by everyone before we can have a literature. … Rexroth is a step in the right direction, not fully as yet realized, he is too bitter, not exalted enough by discoveries of method as the artist must be, the line, the turn of phrase etc etc … But he is good” (Williams / Laughlin, 104).
43. See A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 138-141, 389, 408.
44. American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, 111.
45. A Life of Kenneth Rexroth, 389.
46. Pound/Zukofsky, 16.
47. Meaning a Life, 91-92.
48. His story “Mamie’s Papa” appeared in the Summer 1930 issue. Two other stories, “Henry Convalescing” and “Winter Stories” were announced for future publication in Pagany in 1932 and 1933, though neither ever appeared in the magazine. The manuscript for “Henry Convalescing” is held among the Pagany papers at the University of Delaware.
49. Pound/Zukofsky, 82.
50. Pagany 3:2 (Spring 1932), 152.
51. Williams’ review is included in Something to Say: William Carlos Williams on Younger Poets, 101-102. The final paragraph reads: “I can see what Roskolenko is at. I don’t think he has succeeded. Yet, in spite of all that, that the book will never be read, that it doesn’t get anywhere, that there isn’t a well-made poem in it, that his words are as flat, often as the debacle he holds up to our disdain—the book is so bad, that by its very depravity it is impressive. It is senseless.”
52. Decker also published Louis Zukofsky and Lorine Niedecker’s first books in the 1940s.
53. For more on Roskolenko, see Sanford Sternlicht’s The Tenement Saga: The Lower East Side and Early Jewish American Writers (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), pp. 150-154.
54. Chambers describes the joys of the summer in his short play “On the Beach,” published as “Julian Fichtner” in January 1926 in the CCNY student magazine Lavender. Zukofsky also refers to experiences from this summer in his poetry.
55. Chambers’ old mentor Mark Van Doren, published two of Chambers’ poems from this time in The Nation, where he was the literary editor. Chamber’s poem “Quag-Hole” appeared in December 1925, and his “Lothrop, Montana” was published in June 1926.
56. Tanenhaus, 56.
57. See https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?volume=19&issue=3&page=59.
58. Herrera’s father, Antonio Herrera y Neito was the founder and executive editor of El Mundo, Cuba’s first post-independence newspaper, and her mother, Carmela Nieto de Herrera was an author and philanthropist who had been married to the American banker John Steward Durland before marrying Carmen’s father in 1913. Her father, who had been an officer in the Cuban army during their war for independence from Spain, died in 1917, just after Carmen, the youngest of seven children, turned two years old.
59. ”My students were patient, but I could tell from the looks they exchanged, and the traffic in notes passing back and forth, that I was in a grammar wilderness. At Stuyvesant they had to know grammar for their classes in Spanish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin. Roger [Goodman, then head of the English department at Stuyvesant] understood. He said, Maybe diagramming is not your strong point. He said some people just don’t have it. R’lene Dahlberg had it. Joe Curran certainly had it. After all, he was a graduate of Boston Latin, a school two and a half centuries older than Stuyvesant and, he claimed, more prestigious. Teaching at Stuyvesant for him was a step down in the world. He could diagram in Greek and Latin and probably French and German. That’s the kind of training you get at Boston Latin. Jesse Lowenthal had it, too, but of course he would. He was the oldest teacher in the department with his elegant three-piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front, his gold-rimmed spectacles, his old-world manners, his scholarship, Jesse who did not want to retire but, when he did, planned to spend his days studying Greek and drifting into the next life with Homer on his lips. It pleased Roger to know he had in his department a solid core of teachers who could be relied on to diagram at a moment’s notice. Roger said it was sad Joe Curran had such a drinking problem. Otherwise he could have entertained Jesse with miles of Homer from memory and, if Jesse was up to it, Virgil and Horace, and the one Joe favored out of his own great anger, Juvenal himself. In the teachers’ cafeteria Joe told me, Read your Juvenal so you’ll understand what’s going on in this miserable fookin’ country. Roger said it was sad about Jesse. Here he is in his twilight years with Christ only knows how many years of teaching under his belt. He doesn’t have the same energy for five classes a day. He asked to have his load reduced to four but no, oh no, the principal says no, the superintendent says no, all the way up the bureaucracy they say no, and Jesse says good-bye. Hello Homer. Hello Ithaca. Hello Troy. That’s Jesse. We’re going to lose a great teacher and, boy, could he diagram. What he did with a sentence and a piece of chalk would stun you. Beautiful.” (Teacher Man, 186-187).
60. In a 2010 feature published in English newspaper The Telegraph, Herrera is quoted as saying: “Jesse was a saint and I’m thinking back and I never even thanked him for all he did for me. He was the only one I ever spoke to about my paintings. He understood what I was doing and he was always supportive. I made him move to neighbourhoods that were cheap and sometimes dangerous so I could have room to paint. We had a very good life, actually. We became closer and closer and by the end we were one person. We could think without talking. He died right here in this room with me holding his hand. Lately I miss him a lot.”
61. For a good overview of Carnevali’s life and work, see Alan Davies’ review “To Call Them by Their Dead Name” in Jacket: http://jacketmagazine.com/35/davies-carnevali.shtml.
62. Biography by Alan Wald here: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/wheelwright/bio.htm.
63. See a brief obituary:
64. This issue was even titled “The New Objectivism.” See New Review, 1: 2 (May-June-July 1931), 71-89.
65. According to Tom Sharp, Zukofsky wrote to Pound on 15 March 1932 chastising himself for sacrificing his money, time, and energy without a serious promise of publication, and announced that “he would no longer submit work unsolicited or without pay, especially for editors like Putnam,” though there would be several more cruel lessons for Zukofsky to learn about the poetry and publishing “biz” in the years to come. I need to see these letters directly–they’re at Yale.
66. George and Mary Oppen had funded the press and supervised the production of its books from Le Beausset, a small village in the southeast of France. Zukofsky was employed as the press’ managing editor between November 1931 and August 1932, when the Oppen’s notified him that they were discontinuing the press and his salary. For more details on To, see http://theobjectivists.org/the-work#to.
67. The full table of contents of the anthology can be found at Z-Site: http://www.z-site.net/biblio-research/the-objectivists-and-their-publications/.
68. Anderson’s “Sonnet” appeared in the inaugural issue of Pagany alongside work by Mary Butts, McAlmon, Rexroth, Williams, and Zukofsky.
69. Anderson’s “Hotel for Sailors” appears in the third issue of Pagany along with work by Zukofsky, Reznikoff, McAlmon, and Emanuel Carnevali.
70. Two poems by Anderson were featured in the Autumn 1931 issue along with work by Butts, Carnevali, McAlmon, Rakosi, Williams, and Zukofsky.
71. His poem “Sea Gulls” appeared in the Summer 1931 issue of Pagany along with work by Rakosi, Reznikoff, McAlmon, Zukofsky, Williams, and Howard Weeks, and his “Herald-Tribune Acme” in the Winter 1932 issue next to work by McAlmon, Rakosi, and Frances Fletcher.
72. His poem “Sanctuary” appeared in the July 1933 issue of Poetry.
73. ”Lorine: Some Memories of a Friend,” in Lorine Niedecker: Woman and Poet, pp. 35-47.
74. See The Poem of a Life, pp. 181-189, 225, 473-475 for Mark Scroggins’ view of the Zukofsky-Reisman friendship, and “On Some Conversations with Celia Zukofsky,” in Sagetrieb 10, no. 3 (Winter 1991), pp. 139-150, for Reisman’s account of his relationship with Louis and Celia.
75. The best extant resource which makes an effort to empirically document the pre-1931 “Objectivist” associations is Tom Sharp’s doctoral dissertation, “Objectivists” 1927-1934: A critical history of the work and association of Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Ezra Pound, and George Oppen, which he completed at Stanford University in 1982, and which includes a wealth of well-documented research on the extant correspondence between members of the “Objectivist” nexus in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Sharp did not pursue a career in academia and his dissertation remained unpublished until 2015, when he published large portions of it, at my urging, on his own website: http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/index.html. See Chapters 1, 9, and 11 especially.
76. Zukofsky had wanted to include Pound in his issue of Poetry, but Pound demurred, though Zukofsky’s contributor notes indicate that he had planned to include a blank page in the issue as Pound’s contribution to the issue: “The editor also regrets the omission of a blank page representing Ezra Pound’s contribution to the issue–a page reserved for him as an indication of his belief that a country tolerating outrages like article 211 of the U. S. Penal Code, publishers’ “overhead,” and other impediments to literary life, “does not deserve to have any literature whatsoever.” Mr. Pound gave over to younger poets the space offered him.” (295)
77. Pound/Zukofsky, 110-111.
78. Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 194.
79. Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 196-197.
80. Contemporary Literature, Spring 1969, 180.
81. Speaking with George Oppen, 132).
82. Tom Sharp has argued that the magazine was the group’s “first public meeting place” and that by “express[ing] many of the principles, especially about the importance of group activity, that Pound continued to impress upon them” it placed the “Objectivists” firmly within that “tradition in poetry for which Pound was the principal spokesman” (http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html).
83. His first major publication, “Poem Beginning ‘The'” appeared in The Exile 3, and the fourth and final issue of The Exile included another dozen or so pages from Zukofsky.
84. Williams’ “The Descent of Winter,” which Zukofsky had been instrumental in editing, was published in The Exile 4. Williams wrote to Pound on May 17, 1928: “Your spy Zukofsky has been going over my secret notes for you. At first I resented his wanting to penetrate- now listen! – but finally I sez to him, All right, go ahead. So he took my pile of stuff into the city and he works at it with remarkably clean and steady fingers (to your long distance credit be it said) and he ups and choses a batch of writin that yous is erbout ter git perty damn quick if it hits a quick ship – when it gets ready – which it aren’t quite yit. What I have to send you will be in the form of a journal, each bit as perfect in itself as may be. I am however leaving everything just as selected by Zukofsky. It may be later that I shall use the stuff differently.” (Pound/Williams, 82) Zukofsky and Wiliams had first met in April of that year, which means that Williams had known Zukofsky for less than 2 months at the time that he sent Pound this remarkable indication his editorial trust.
85. Pound published four poems by Rakosi in The Exile 2 and his poem “Extracts from A Private Life” in The Exile 4
86. The Exile 2 included McAlmon’s short story “Truer than Most Accounts” and an essay of his on Gertrude Stein was included in The Exile 4
87. His poem “Stunt Piece” was published in The Exile 3 and was the only previous publication for Weeks before his appearance in Poetry.
88. Contempo, III: 6 (February 21, 1933), 7.
89. Pound/Zukofsky, 6.
90. Pound, Williams, and Hilda Doolittle [H.D.] all met in Philadelphia in the early 1900s. Pound and Williams met in the fall of 1902, when both were enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where H.D. father was a professor of Astronomy. In 1903, Pound transferred to Hamilton College, but continued to see Williams during school breaks when he returned to his parents’ home in Wyncote, a Philadelphia suburb. In 1905, Pound returned to Penn to begin work on his master’s degree, and they resumed their friendship in earnest. Williams left Philadelphia in 1906 for a medical internship in New York City, and Pound took his ill-fated job teaching foreign languages at Wabash College in a small Indiana town in 1907 (he was fired in the spring of 1908 and left for Europe shortly thereafter). Pound dedicated his 1912 collection Ripostes to Williams and included Williams’ poem “Postlude” in his 1914 Des Imagistes anthology and his poems “In Harbor” and “The Wanderer” in his 1915 Catholic Anthology. He also wrote an introductory note to a selection of poems from Williams’ book The Tempers published in The Poetry Review in October 1912 and reviewed the book in The New Freewoman in December 1913. Though no letters from Williams to Pound written prior to 1921 have survived, they corresponded regularly for the next several decades, and a significant portion of their extant correspondence can be found in Hugh Witemeyer’s Pound/Williams: The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Williams Carlos Williams, published by New Directions in 1996. The early years of their friendship are briefly summarized on pages 3-5 of that book.
91. Pound/Zukofsky, 11.
92. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 219-221. Here Vogel is named “James” instead of “Joseph.
93. The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 222. More on Vogel/Pound correspondence in Paideuma 27:2-3 [Fall/Winter 1998], 197-225.
94. The Letters of W.B. Yeats, 759. Ed. Allan Wade (MacMillan, New York, 1954)
95. Bunting wrote Zukofsky a postcard two days after his marriage to Marian Culver on Long Island that read, simply: “Dear Mr Zukofsky – Ezra Pound says I ought to look you up. May I?” Zukofsky assented, the two men quickly became friends, and would carry on a lengthy correspondence over the subsequent decades. See The Poem of a Life, pp. 73-74 and A Strong Song Tows Us, pp. 162-168 for more detailed accounts of the origin of Bunting and Zukofsky’s friendship. Pound first mentions Rakosi in a letter to Zukofsky filled with advice about assembling his guest edited issue of Poetry dated 25 October 1930, indicating that he “may be dead, I wish I cd. trace him” and passing along his last known address in Kenosha, Wisconsin (Pound/Zukofsky, 51).
96. Mary Wright, the wife of designer Russel Wright, introduced the Oppens to Louis Zukofsky at a party sometime in 1928. See Mary Oppen’s account of their meeting in Meaning a Life, 84-85.
97. In a letter dated December 9, 1929 Pound praises some “Reznikof prose” that Zukofsky had sent him as being “very good” and in January 1930, Zukofsky informs Pound of an upcoming meeting with Reznikoff in which he intends to “talk business” regarding plans to use Reznikoff’s printing press to publish and circulate a wider range of work. Their surviving letters from 1930 make several additional references to Reznikoff and Zukofsky’s “sincerity and objectification” essay on Reznikoff’s work in particular.
98. Zukofsky made reference to his having sent Pound several unpublished Oppen poems in a letter dated June 18, 1930. This manuscript was recently been found in the Pound papers held at Yale by the scholar David Hobbs and published by New Directions as 21 Poems. See pp. 26-44 of Pound/Zukofsky for the letters Pound and Zukofsky exchanged during the period in question.
99. Niedecker is first mentioned in the Pound/Zukofsky correspondence in February 1935, when Zukofsky writes “Glad you agreed with me as to the value of Lorine Niedecker’s work and are printing it in Westminster,” a reference to the Spring-Summer 1935 issue of Bozart-Westminster, which Pound edited with John Drummond and T.C. Wilson and which featured several poems and a dramatic scenario by Niedecker (Pound/Zukofsky, 161). This was a particularly strained time in their relationship, largely exacerbated by political differences over fascism and economic theory, and Pound’s response was particularly nasty, dismissing Niedecker’s work and insulting Zukofsky’s critical acumen.
100. Zukofsky sent Pound work by Oppen, Rakosi, Reznikoff, and Rexroth when Pound was assembling his Active Anthology in 1933, but of Zukofsky’s submissions Pound only included work by Rakosi and Oppen in the final selection.
101. Zukofsky spent the 1930-1931 academic year teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Oppens lived in California and France for significant periods in the early 1930s, but apart from these exceptions, this core group all lived within 20 miles of each other in the New York metro area from 1928 through 1935.
102. Williams references having supper with Basil Bunting and his American wife Marian and Robert McAlmon in a January 15, 1931 letter to Zukofsky (The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 77). A finding list of all extant correspondence between Zukofsky, Pound, Eliot, and Williams has been compiled by Barry Ahearn and can be found at http://www2.tulane.edu/liberal-arts/english/ahearn/zukofsky_search_form.cfm.
103. The Oppens had financed the publication by TO, Publishers of a book consisting of two of Pound’s prose works. They met with Pound in a Parisian café to inform him that they could not carry on their publishing efforts for financial reasons and that they would not print his ABC of Economics, as he had hoped. For Mary Oppen’s later account of their relationship with Pound and Bunting during this time, see her Meaning a Life, pp. 131-137.
104. Rakosi stopped reading and writing verse entirely towards the end of his time in New York City. Rakosi, who had changed his name to Callman Rawley for professional reasons, earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and married Leah Jaffe in the spring of 1939. Following what he described as “a dreadful existential state, something grey and purposeless between living and dying, and so physical that for a while I was sure I was going to die” that came on when he realized that he was going to stop writing poetry, Rakosi took a job in Saint Louis in 1940 and “went on with my life as a social worker and therapist” (Autobiography in Contemporary Autobiography series, 208). For more on this period in Rakosi’s life, see http://theobjectivists.org/the-lives/carl-rakosi/.
105. Carl Rakosi visited Lorine Niedecker at her home in 1967/8 [details needed]. Though Bunting and Niedecker did not meet in person until June 1967, when Bunting and his daughters visited Niedecker at her Blackhawk Island home, they had known each other through correspondence, and for a short time Bunting had explored the possibility of going into the carp-seining business with Niedecker’s father Henry. Niedecker wrote to Cid Corman on June 15, 1966: “Basil Bunting–yes, I came close to meeting him when he was in this country in the 30’s. Some mention at the time of his going into the fishing business (he had yeoman muscles LZ said and arrived in New York with a sextant) with my father on our lake and river but it was the depression and at that particular time my dad felt it best to ‘lay low’ so far as starting fresh with new equipment was concerned and a new partner – the market had dropped so low for our carp – and I believe BB merely lived a few weeks with Louie without engaging in any business. He’s probably a very fine person and I’ve always enjoyed his poetry” (Faranda, “Between Your House and Mine“: The Letters of Lorine Niedecker to Cid Corman, 1960-1970, 88).
106. For more on this period in Pound’s life, see J.J. Wilhelm’s Ezra Pound: The Tragic Years, pp. 336-357, especially
107. This was the term Charles Olson used to refer to the group in his influential “Projective Verse” manifesto, published in 1950. Olson writes: “Which gets us to what I promised, the degree to which the projective involves a stance toward reality outside a poem as well as a new stance towards the reality of a poem itself. It is a matter of content, the content of Homer or of Euripides or of Seami as distinct from that which I might call the more “literary” masters. From the moment the projective purpose of the act of verse is recognized, the content does—it will—change. If the beginning and the end is breath, voice in its largest sense, then the material of verse shifts. It has to. It starts with the composer. The dimension of his line itself changes, not to speak of the change in his conceiving, of the matter he will turn to, of the scale in which he imagines that matter’s use. I myself would pose the difference by a physical image. It is no accident that Pound and Williams both were involved variously in a movement which got called “objectivism.” But that word was then used in some sort of a necessary quarrel, I take it, with “subjectivism.” It is now too late to be bothered with the latter. It has excellently done itself to death, even though we are all caught in its dying. What seems to me a more valid formulation for present use is “objectism,” a word to be taken to stand for the kind of relation of man to experience which a poet might state as the necessity of a line or a work to be as wood is, to be as clean as wood is as it issues from the hand of nature, to be as shaped as wood can be when a man has had his hand to it. Objectism is the getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego, of the “subject” and his soul, that peculiar presumption by which western man has interposed himself between what he is as a creature of nature (with certain instructions to carry out) and those other creations of nature which we may, with no derogation, call objects. For a man is himself an object, whatever he may take to be his advantages, the more likely to recognize himself as such the greater his advantages, particularly at that moment that he achieves an humilitas sufficient to make him of use. It comes to this: the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence. If he sprawl, he shall find little to sing but himself, and shall sing, nature has such paradoxical ways, by way of artificial forms outside himself. But if he stays inside himself, if he is contained within his nature as he is participant in the larger force, he will be able to listen, and his hearing through himself will give him secrets objects share. And by an inverse law his shapes will make their own way. It is in this sense that the projective act, which is the artist’s act in the larger field of objects, leads to dimensions larger than the man. For a man’s problem, the moment he takes speed up in all its fullness, is to give his work his seriousness, a seriousness sufficient to cause the thing he makes to try to take its place alongside the things of nature. This is not easy. Nature works from reverence, even in her destruction (species go down with a crash). But breath is man’s special qualification as animal. Sound is a dimension he has extended. Language is one of his proudest acts. And when a poet rests in these as they are in himself (in his physiology, if you like, but the life in him, for all that) then he, if he chooses to speak from these roots, works in that area where nature has given him size, projective size” (“Projective Verse,” available online at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69406/projective-verse).
108. Interview with Dembo, CL, 194. In the interview, Reznikoff would go on to extend the analogy more explicitly to the judicial context: “Now suppose in a court of law, you are testifying in a negligence case. You cannot get up on the stand and say, “The man was negligent.” That’s a conclusion of fact. What you’d be compelled to say is how the man acted. Did he stop before he crossed the street? Did he look? The judges of whether he is negligent or not are the jury in that case and the judges of what you say as a poet are the readers. That is, there is an analogy between testimony in the courts and the testimony of a poet,” 195.
109. These include his prose statements in the February and April 1931 issues of Poetry magazine as well as his preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology.
110. He told Kimberly Bird: “Niedecker, by the way, was not a part of it at this time. I think I was the one really who first called her an Objectivist, because I thought that she was the most Objectivist of us all, and she is.”
111. Interview with George Evans and August Kleinzahler in Conjunctions, 221. It should be noted that Rakosi was not present in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and thus only had contact with Zukofsky via letters. Consequently, some of his recollections about the initial character of the group may be less accurate than those made by participants in the early meetings.
112. See Kenneth Rexroth’s famously dismissive (and possibly apocryphal) riposte to a Time magazine article designating him the “father of the ‘Beats'”: “An entomologist is not a bug” (qtd. in the introduction to Rexroth: Complete Poems, eds. Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, xxvi).
113. Interview with Dembo, 205
114. In this, I concur with Tom Sharp, who has produced the best other sustained empirical examination of “Objectivist” relations in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and who argued that “agreement on fundamental principles need not (and did not) imply surrender of individual character or practice. Zukofsky’s statement that he was never a member of the group of “Objectivists”—in the light of such fundamentals—could only be credited to misunderstanding and personal differences,” before concluding that a close examination of the available documentary history justifies us “in regarding the Objectivists as a group.” See http://sharpgiving.com/Objectivists/sections/01.history.html
115. Pound’s role in setting this up–his four long advice letters on 24, 25 and 28 October to Zukofsky after getting word from Monroe that she’d give him an issue to edit (Pound/Zukofsky, 45-59)
116. Pound had hoped that Zukofsky’s issue might be an ‘American’ issue, and he hoped to persuade Monroe to follow it up by allowing Basil Bunting to edit an ‘English’ issue, and René Taupin to edit a ‘French’ issue. While Monroe never again gave full editorial control of an entire issue of Poetry to anyone Pound had recommended, Bunting was involved in the selection of the poetry included in the ‘English Number,’ published in February 1932, exactly one year after the “Objectivists” issue. The ‘English Number’ included both Bunting’s satirical poem “Fearful Symmetry” as well as his savage review article entitled “English Poetry Today,” which opened by stating: “There is no poetry in England, none with any relation to the life of the country, or of any considerable section of it” and proceeded to insult nearly everything upon which Bunting settled his attention (264).
117. Selected Letters of Charles Reznikoff, 156.
118. Pound/Zukofsky, 65
119. Pound/Zukofsky, 67.
120. Confused but curious readers wrote to Monroe and Poetry magazine almost immediately for clarification, and Zukofsky’s testy replies didn’t seem to help much. In the correspondence section of the April 1931 issue of Poetry, Harriet Monroe edited a clutch of reader letters inquiring about Zukofsky’s issue. Stanley Burnshaw asked explicitly: “Is Objectivist poetry a programmed movement (such as the Imagists instituted), or is it a rationalization undertaken by writers of similar subjective predilections and tendencies[?] … Is there a copy of the program of the Objectivist group available?” (53).  In his reply to some of Burnshaw’s other questions Zukofsky emphasized the fundamental individuality of the serious writer: “Interpretation differs between individuals and sometimes there are schools of poetry; i.e., there is agreement among individuals. But linguistic usage and the context of related words naturally influence an etiquette of interpretation (common to individuals, and, it has been said, “for an age”–though all kinds of people live in an “age”)” before both dodging and dismissing Burnshaw’s question, claiming: “To those interested in programmed movements “Objectivist” poetry will be a “programmed movement.” The editor was not a pivot, the contributors did not rationalize about him together; out of appreciation for their sincerity of craft and occasional objectification he wrote the program of the February issue of Poetry” and brusquely recommending Burnshaw reread the other prose statements in the issue (56).
121. Westminster Magazine 23, no. 1 (Spring 1934), “Notes on Contributors”, 6. This was the second of two installments of the work published in Westminster Magazine. The first, published in the Winter 1933 issue, had included the following as its contributor’s note: “MR ZUKOFSKY is the leader of Objectivism in America; his work has appeared in the better American and European magazines.”
122. Dembo interview, x, 2.
123. Nearly all of the writers in Zukofsky’s circle would have heartily approved of most of the advice dispensed in the ‘Language’ section of Pound’s “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste”, including his counsel: “Don’t use such an expression as “dim lands of peace.” It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.”
124. While not everyone involved in the group was as unfailingly precise in their usage [e.g. Williams, Rezi], most other members of the group were similarly scrupulous in their distinction between -ist and -ism.[examples from Oppen & Rakosi]
125. Zukofsky, while an intellectually committed Marxist, never formally joined the Communist Party, for example, and while both Rakosi and the Oppens did, neither lasted long as members, nor did either of them feel comfortable mixing their political activism and poetic activity.Both George Oppen and Carl Rakosi, they too strongly valued their poetic independence to surrender their voices to party propaganda. A similar ambivalence and outright antipathy towards political parties and large organizations more generally can be clearly seen in both Lorine Niedecker and Basil Bunting’s work. Reznikoff’s case is likewise interesting–as the author of Holocaust and Testimony, he remains one of the 20th century’s most important documentary poets, and was married for much of his adult life to Marie Syrkin, who, as the daughter of Socialist Zionist theorist Nachman Syrkin, was herself the close friend and biographer of Golda Meir and the longtime editor of Jewish Frontier, the leading Labor Zionist publication in the English-speaking world, though he himself remained more or less unaffiliated with any explicitly partisan causes.
126. (203)
127. Pound and Flint’s essays can be read online at the Poetry Foundation’s webiste here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=58900 and here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=58898.
128. (199)
129. Mary Oppen, in Meaning A Life: “Later, at almost the same moment that George and I terminated To Publishers, James Laughlin founded New Directions. Since then he has continued to publish fine books through the many years, and he deserves the credit for carrying the burden of running a business in the interest of publishing poetry.” (131)
130. Before the Oppens discontinued its operations, TO, Publishers published three works: An “Objectivists” Anthology, Williams’ A Novelette and Other Prose and Pound’s Prolegomena 1: How to Read, Followed by The Spirit of Romance, Part 1, all of which were issued as paperbacks from Le Beausset, France in 1932. The Oppens ran into a number of difficulties that hampered the press’ financial viability, including problems of editorial quality produced by having non-English speaking typesetters, numerous difficulties both importing the books into the United States and then marketing and selling them once they had reached New York City. Zukofsky, while an undeniably gifted editor, was, by his own admission, not a very skilled marketer or salesman.
131. The genesis for The Objectivist Press was a proposal, circulated by Zukofsky in May 1933, regarding the formation of a writer’s collaborative, which Zukofsky wanted to call Writers Extant [WE]. Williams found the idea too complicated, and Zukofsky, Williams, Reznikoff, and the Oppens discussed and revised Zukofsky’s prospectus for a writer’s collaborative and various names for it between May and October 1933, when they ultimately settled on The Objectivist Press and Reznikoff’s very simple editorial statement, which they published on their books’ dust jackets: “The Objectivist Press is an organization of writers who are publishing their work and that of other writers whose work they think ought to be read.”
132. Signs of trouble for the press were visible almost immediately. Zukofsky wrote to Pound about exhaustion and the possibility of his leaving the press as early as April 12, 1934: “have been sick myself tho working on a C.W. A. job, now transferred to Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, N.Y.C.–6 hrs of continual insult to the intelligence, 2 hrs travel, 1 hr. “lunch.” 9 hrs a day, & then 1-3 hrs of the Obj. Press when I get home. Municipal salary $19 a week. Other salary $0. Which leaves very little time for writing, but I’ve done some. … May have to resign Sec’y of Obj. Press if burden of work continues, & the effort spent on the press does not repay in the way of enough sales allowing us to continue. It’s a ha-a-rd job, & besides there may be necessity for direct action in another field (in add. to poetry)–and aside from publishing–I’m afraid there is now only I’m holding back. You were right last summer about staying clear of becoming an office boy–besides peeple dun’t appreciate.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 156-157).
133. The relationship between Williams, Zukofsky, and the Oppens appears to have been strained by late 1934, as a letter from Williams to Zukofsky in March 1935 indicates both that Williams hadn’t heard from Zukofsky for roughly 6 months and that Williams had heard that Zukofsky and the Oppens had had a falling out (The Correspondence of Williams Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky, 212). Zukofsky writes to Pound November 14, 1934 asking about the possibility of Faber & Faber printing his poem “Mantis,” and writes to Pound on February 17, 1935 asking explicitly for help in getting his 55 Poems manuscript published in England with Faber & Faber, which I take as a clear sign that the Objectivist Press had failed by this point: “You can, if it won’t hurt your own name, try and get me published with Faber & Faber. Serly off to Europe with my final arrangement and additions to 55 Poems–a most commendable typscript for you to look at. Time fucks it, and if I keep my MSS. in my drawer or my drawers, I might as well shut up altogether. … If you consent, think it opportune etc, to try my 55 on Faber & Faber, you need not worry about an introduction–I don’t want it–you can write a blurb for the dust-proof jacket if it jets out of you. Noo Yok at a standstill. Haven’t heart from Bill Willyums in moneths.” (Pound/Zukofsky, 160-161). A May 11, 1935 letter to Pound is perhaps Zukofsky’s most explicit statement on what he took as the lessons of the failure of his publishing efforts: “But you needn’t tell me that “All good books are Blocked by the present fahrty system”-why ‘n hell do you think I asked your aid? Between the New Masses crowd who can’t get the distinction that yr. poetry is one thing & yr. economics another, & yr. unwillingness to even look at my work to see what it says because I won’t embrace Social Credit, then last 3 years-I’ve not only lost whatever chance I might have had with commercial publishers, but have ostracized myself completely. I ain’t weeping about it-I’m just seeing by my own lights. … I’ve sacrificed a good deal of my time with To, Objectivist Press, corresponding with 152 “poets” etc. to get up an issue of Poetry, an anthology etc., & the good things which resulted were their own cheque. However, I don’t care to do it again. I’ve even stopped seeing “close friends” who’ve envied my station-to put an end to the bad taste of it all. For example, it is amusing & to a slight degree cheering that The Rocking Horse 5 years after my advent at the Univ. of Wis. has got round to speaking about E.P., W.C.W. etc. as if they were not exactly taboo-but I’m not going to commend the kids or take up correspondence with ’em to keep you & Bill “in shape” as you say. It won’t mean anything to you 1 yr. from now-& it won’t get me anywhere.” (The Selected Letters of Louis Zukofsky, 120).
134. See Mark Scroggins’ “The Objectivists and their Publications.
135. In the case of Oppen, Rakosi, and Bunting, each of whom stopped writing and publishing poetry for long stretches.
136. In the case of Zukofsky, Niedecker, and Reznikoff.
137. Oppen published his first post-silence poems, fittingly, in Poetry magazine (the January 1960 issue contained five poems, his first publications in more than 25 years). His The Materials and Charles Reznikoff’s By the Waters of Manhattan were jointly published in 1962 by New Directions in partnership with George’s sister June Degnan Oppen, the publisher of The San Francisco Review.
138. Oppen published The Materials in 1962, This in Which in 1965, and Of Being Numerous in 1968, all with New Directions. Of Being Numerous won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1969. Reznikoff published By the Waters of Manhatan: Selected Verse in 1962 and Testimony, the United States, 1885-1890, the first volume of his long series of documentary poetry taken from the American legal record, in 1965, both with New Directions. After Testimony failed to sell well, New Directions dropped Reznikoff, and he returned to printing his work privately, self-publishing By the Well of Living and Seeing, and the Fifth Book of the Macabbees in 1969 before John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press began publishing his work in 1974. Zukofsky published four books with small presses between 1962 and 1964; editions containing the two halves of All, his collected short poems, were published in the United States and England between 1965 and 1967; his “A” 1-12 was published in London in 1966 and by Doubleday in New York in 1967; and both “A” 13-21 and his and Celia’s translations of Catullus were published in both London and New York in 1969. Bunting published Loquitur and his First Book of Odes with Stuart and Deidre Montgomery’s London-based Fulcrum Press in 1965, and his autobiographical long poem Briggflatts appeared to great acclaim, first in Poetry magazine in January 1966, and later that year in book form from Fulcrum. Fulcrum also published the first edition of his Collected Poems in 1968. Rakosi published Amulet, his first book in more than 25 years, with New Directions in 1967. Niedecker published My Friend Tree in 1961, but this was a small book with very limited distribution. In 1968, however, Niedecker published both her collection North Central with Stuart and Deidre Montgomery’s Fulcrum Press and her T & G: The Collected Poems (1936-1966) through Jonathan Williams’s Jargon Society.
139. A volume of selected Pound-Williams letters containing roughly 30 percent of the extant correspondence was edited by Hugh Witemeyer and published by New Directions in 1996.
140. Williams he knew from their days together at Penn, Bunting he knew as a co-dweller at Rapallo, and Zukofsky had written him with admiration for both his prose statements and more importantly, the poetic accomplishments of his early Cantos.
141. Meaning a Life, 85
142. Meaning a Life, 91, 93-94.
143. The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1975, 385.
144. Charles Reznikoff Papers, UCSD Special Collections, Box 4, Folder 3.
145. Meaning a Life, 132.
146. Meaning a Life, 145.